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Police hoping to shed new light on 'evil' Co Down baby murder

PSNI chief believes DNA may solve mystery of infant buried in shallow grave in 2020


Murder: The funeral of Baby Stewart found in a shallow grave in 2000 at Strangford Lough

Murder: The funeral of Baby Stewart found in a shallow grave in 2000 at Strangford Lough

Murder: The funeral of Baby Stewart found in a shallow grave in 2000 at Strangford Lough

Chief Constable Simon Byrne has said police are still actively investigating the murder of a baby boy in Co Down 20 years ago.

The lifeless, battered body of the infant was discovered in a shallow grave near Strangford Lough on October 6, 2000.

No one has been brought to justice for the murder, and the infant's parents were never identified.

Now, however, and following a letter from Strangford MP Jim Shannon to Mr Byrne, the PSNI has said that work has begun on establishing if new DNA technology could shed fresh light on a crime that has baffled detectives for two decades.

Mr Shannon, who walks past the sight where the boy, who became known as 'Stewart' was found, has been calling for the case to be reopened, in the belief that today's sophisticated forensic techniques could go some way towards identifying those who carried out what he described as a "wicked and evil crime".

In a reply to the DUP man, Mr Byrne said the case was being re-examined.

"Baby Stewart's murder has been the subject of an extensive investigation, but this did not identify his parents, nor bring anyone to justice for the brutal violence inflicted upon him," he said.

"Officers from our Serious Crime Branch have recently commenced some work to establish whether advancements in forensic science could enable us to advance the investigation.

"We have also made a media appeal for more information from the public."

Mr Shannon, who said he was encouraged by the PSNI's response, recently told the Belfast Telegraph: "I'll never forget that tragic episode.

"There was an absolute brutality about the murder of that tiny, defenceless, innocent child.

"The wee baby was grabbed by the legs and his head was smashed off the floor.

"It's unthinkable how anyone in their right mind could do something as wicked and evil as that."

Mr Shannon (65), a local councillor and Assembly member at the time, said the savagery of the crime really hit home as his three young sons were then aged 12, 10 and eight.

The baby was born alive and without defects, and police believe the mother may have been young, perhaps even in her teens, at the time of the birth.

'Stewart' was finally given a proper burial on October 3, 2001.

"He was found buried in a car park opposite the entrance to Mount Stewart," Mr Shannon recalled.

"I remember somebody out with their dog noticed something in the ground and contacted the police," he said.

"I travel that road when I'm home twice or four times a day.

"There isn't a day that I don't go by that wee car park and look over and think about the wee child being found."

The unidentified infant was buried in a small white coffin on a hilltop overlooking the lough.

The headstone said simply: "Erected in memory of a baby boy known only to God."


Baby Stewart's headstone

Baby Stewart's headstone

Baby Stewart's headstone

Presbyterian Minister Rev John Murdock, who was one three clergymen who carried out a short ecumenical funeral service in Movilla Cemetery, told this newspaper: "People feel saddened and frustrated that nothing is known of the parents of this baby or where he comes from."

The UK's National DNA Database (NDNAD) was only five years old when Baby Stewart's body was found, but is now one of the longest established and biggest databases in the world, and has helped solve many so-called 'cold cases'.

Anyone who believes they may have useful information should call 101 or give information anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Belfast Telegraph