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Man held over 1977 disappearance


A man has been arrested over the 1977 disappearance of six-year-old Mary Boyle

A man has been arrested over the 1977 disappearance of six-year-old Mary Boyle

A man has been arrested over the 1977 disappearance of six-year-old Mary Boyle

A man has been arrested over the unsolved disappearance of youngster Mary Boyle in 1977, after a cold case review turned up fresh evidence.

The man, 64, was detained on suspicion of kidnapping the six-year-old, who went missing near her grandparents' home in Cashelard, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal and is presumed murdered.

Mary from Belcruit, Kincasslagh, in the north of the county, was on a St Patrick's Day visit to her relatives with her parents Ann and Charlie and siblings when she disappeared on March 18 1977.

Her body has never been found and her disappearance remains the longest running case of its kind in Ireland.

Mary's mother Ann said she had been notified before today that the arrest was due to be made and appealed for the man to give any information that might help her find her daughter.

"It's positive as far as I'm concerned. Hopefully I'll find out what happened to Mary before I die," she told Highland Radio.

"I hope he has information. I am aware of who he is and if he has any information please let the gardai know, or let somebody know so that I will find my little girl."

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Margo O'Donnell, sister of singer Daniel, who has helped the Boyle family in their decades' long quest for answers, said they were spending the day comforting one another.

"Anything that would help find out what happened to Mary, the family would be very, very grateful for," she said.

"I don't know what to think today, I just don't. Our hopes have been built up so many times to be shattered again so we are trying to keep on an even keel. We are just comforting each other today."

Gardai said the arrested man was taken in for questioning to Mullingar Garda station under section four of the Criminal Justice Act 1984. He can be questioned for up to 24 hours.

The arrest was made after new evidence was discovered by cold case detectives investigating the disappearance since 2011.

Gardai said the review team has conducted a significant investigation including interviews with a wide range of people and carried out a number of searches with the help of forensic and geology experts over the last three years.

Assistant Commissioner for the Garda's Northern Region Kieran Kenny said new "lines of evidence" uncovered by the cold case review led to the arrest.

"We are appealing for anyone with any information on the circumstances around Mary's disappearance to contact us. Even something that people may have thought was insignificant at the time could help us advance the continuing investigation," he said.

He appealed for anyone with information to come forward to officers in Ballyshannon.

A family liaison officer has been appointed by the Garda to keep Mary's mother Ann and twin sister, also named Ann, and other members of the family updated with any developments in the investigation.

A Mass is said in St Mary's Church in Kincasslagh every year to mark the anniversary of her disappearance.

What happened to Mary remains a mystery.

Repeated searches have taken place in bogland and fields around Cashelard over the years, with the officer who led the initial searches for the girl, retired sergeant Martin Collins, saying he is convinced her body is buried near to where she was last seen.

Mary had been playing outside when she followed her uncle across fields near her grandparents' house but was never seen after she turned to go back.

Convicted child killer Robert Black was a suspect in her disappearance because he travelled from Britain to Ireland as a van driver and spent time in the Donegal area but the Boyle family do not believe he was responsible.

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