The garda sergeant involved in the initial search for Mary Boyle believes she died within one hour of going missing and that she never left the hillside alive.
Sgt. Martin Collins, who retired in 1994, spoke to the Sunday World this week as part of their special report on the death of the 6-year-old from Belcruit who went missing on March 18, 1977 while on a family visit to Cashelard. The case is Ireland’s longest-running missing child investigation.
Mr Collins said: “Mary was dead within an hour of going missing and never left the Cashelard hillside alive. That was my view very shortly into the investigation and, 36 years later, that view has not changed.”
He continued: “Within 48 hours I was convinced that she had died and my view was cemented when an interested party came to me and said that he knew who had killed Mary.
“He said the perpetrator had some kind of history. He wouldn’t talk after that and to this day that witness has never spoken of it again.”
Recalling the massive search, involving thousands of volunteers, that took place over the next four weeks, Mr Collins suggested that it might have been a mistake to keep looking for a missing child for so long, instead of launching a murder investigation.
“Maybe we would have made more progress if we were a little more realistic and less hopeful. It is not plausible that she left the hillside under her own steam and that wasn’t appreciated soon enough in the investigation.”
He also expressed concerns that the initial investigation may have been compromised. “There were some members of the public in the meetings [in the incident room] who should not have been there. Today it wouldn’t have happened and that may have compromised the investigation.”
The Sunday World also reports that it brought a specialist company in to conduct a geophysical survey of what some believe may have been a shallow grave near where Mary was last seen. Cattle dealer John Gallagher was one of three men taking part in the search for Mary who found the site two days after she went missing. The results of the test will be known next week, when they will be handed to gardaí.
Meanwhile, Mary Boyle’s mother Ann said gardaí have told her they will excavate the area.
Mary’s identical twin sister, who is also called Ann, is demanding an inquest. She told the Sunday World: “Although there is no direct evidence of her death, there is none pointing to her living and we all know in our hearts that she is gone.
“If there is an inquest, then all the surviving witnesses will be interviewed and the investigation into the case starts as if she disappeared yesterday.
“I believe the answer to her disappearance is on the hillside. That is uncomfortable for everyone but after 36 years it’s important for the truth to come out.”