Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland link in hunt for parents of baby killed in 1984 in Kerry

'John', The Kerry Baby, in Cahersiveen Cemetary in County Kerry.
'John', The Kerry Baby, in Cahersiveen Cemetary in County Kerry.

POLICE in the Republic are investigating whether one of the parents of a baby boy found stabbed to death in Kerry in 1984 is living in Northern Ireland.

Detectives are to extend their hunt for clues to the UK's DNA database, with particular focus on Northern Ireland.

The movement of a number of people between Kerry and Northern Ireland in 1983/84 has prompted gardai to examine the British DNA database for any potential link to the 'Kerry Baby' investigation.

The dramatic move is being considered given that the Republic has only 15,000 DNA samples on its national database in comparison to some six million samples in the UK and Northern Ireland.

Cross-references of the Irish DNA database have so far failed to yield any matches to the sample taken from the murdered baby in 1984.

Detectives are aware a significant number of people moved between Kerry and Northern Ireland in the mid-1980s.

Similar movements between Kerry and the rest of the UK now make an examination of the London database potentially critical.

If Baby John's mother or father had any relatives on the DNA database for Northern Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales, it will immediately trigger a cross-referencing 'hit'.

The DNA profile was obtained from a tissue sample taken from Baby John by former Irish State pathologist Dr John Harbison as part of the post-mortem examination in 1984.

That has undergone a battery of high tech tests - and gardai now have a full DNA profile of the infant they can cross-reference with other samples in a bid to obtain a familial link.

Gardai now believe the vast and detailed UK DNA database could deliver the breakthrough they need.

"Every avenue for the investigation is now being looked at," a senior source said.

Founded in 1995, the UK's DNA database is one of the most extensive in the world, with samples taken under far wider circumstances than is the case in the Republic, where DNA samples are only taken in a number of specific instances.

The British database increases by between 30,000 and 40,000 samples each month - and 60% of DNA samples obtained from a UK crime scene can now be linked to a person.

DNA sampling is now so advanced that even distant sixth and seventh cousins can be detected through genetic 'links'.

The advantage of examining a large-scale database is that it offers an enhanced possibility of getting a DNA 'hit' on distant relatives of the individuals being sought - and allows detectives to finally focus their investigation on specific individuals.

Baby John was thought to be around five days old when he was killed.

The infant, with 28 stab wounds, was discovered by a jogger at White Strand beach, Cahersiveen, on April 14, 1984. He had also suffered an horrific spinal injury.

Kerry gardai, under Supt Flor Murphy, said they believe the answers to the Baby John tragedy still rest within the south Kerry community.

Despite the lapse of 34 years since Baby John's murder, gardai believe DNA sample will prove critical to their investigation.

"It's never the wrong time to do the right thing," Supt Murphy said.

"It just had to be done. We have a duty to investigate this.

"There's a five-day-old infant stabbed to death - we just can't let that happen," he added.

However, DNA samples from people in the south Kerry area can only be obtained voluntarily unless it is in relation to someone already under arrest in connection with an alleged offence under any of six different legal provisions.

Gardai stressed they are "exploring every opportunity" as regards cross-referencing of DNA samples under current legislation.

The Irish DNA database regulations came into force in 2015 - almost 20 years after the UK began working to build its own DNA database.

The grave of Baby John has been the focus of attacks at Cahersiveen graveyard over the past 20 years.

The infant's grave was initially marked with a simple wooden cross, but Tom Cournane, the Kerry undertaker who first christened the infant Baby John, later replaced it with a black marble headstone.

It bears the inscription: "I am the Kerry Baby baptised 14-04-1984, named John, and I forgive."

In July 2004, the headstone was smashed.

Belfast Telegraph

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