After a cold case review, gardaí in Co. Kerry have arrested two people in connection with a notorious case that is now 39 years old
Gardaí have this week arrested two people in connection with the discovery of the body of a five-day-old baby on a beach in Cahersiveen, Co. Kerry, in April 1984.
The two people, a man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s, were arrested on suspicion of murder in the Munster and are being held by gardaí. They were initially detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
The woman was later released without charge, with a file now being prepared for the DPP. The man remains in custody.
The body of the baby, subsequently named John, was found with 28 stab wounds.
The arrests, in connection with what became known as the “Kerry Babies” case, is a significant development in a cold case review launched in 2018, according to lead investigator Superintendent Flor Murphy.
He said gardaí are focused on establishing the truth of what happened to Baby John in the Kerry Babies case.
DNA evidence will constitute part of the evidence used in determining the progress of any subsequent prosecution.
Supt Murphy said at the beginning of the cold case enquiry in 2018 that it was the strong belief of the investigating team that the answers to the questions about baby John's death lay in Cahersiveen and its near environs.
The Kerry Babies case in 1984 concerned the killing of one newborn baby and the alleged killing of another. On April 14, 1984 a dead male infant with stab wounds was found on the rocks at Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry by a local.
Gardaí conducting the initial investigation into baby John’s death in 1984 drew up a list of pregnant women who had either left the county or had not appeared to have a new-born infant.
An unmarried woman, Joanne Hayes from Abbeydorney, who was known to have been pregnant, was identified and arrested. She worked locally as a telephonist at the Tralee sports centre. She was known to have been having an affair with the groundsman at the centre, who was a married man.
Ms Hayes was arrested by a gardaí investigation unit and wrongly accused of being the mother of baby John. Family members — sister, brothers and aunt — were accused of concealing the birth of the baby.
Ms Hayes had told gardaí she had given birth to a child, Shane, who was stillborn or died shortly after birth. He had been buried on the family farm around the same time as the body was found on the beach. Shane’s remains were subsequently located.
Gardaí were forced to drop the charges four years later and a tribunal of inquiry, the "Kerry Babies Tribunal", was launched.
The report, critical of the police conduct of the investigations, concluded that Ms Hayes had precipitated the death of her baby — not “Baby John”. A suspicion that Ms Hayes had given birth to twins was subsequently found to be false. The tribunal said the gardaí were guilty of “resorting to unlikely, far-fetched and self-contradictory theories that Joanne Hayes had given birth to twins in an attempt to link her with the Cahirciveen baby”.
In 2020, the Irish State formally apologised after 36 years to Joanne Hayes for wrongly accusing her of the murder and for the "appalling hurt and distress caused."
The case had a significant impact on Irish society, and led to changes in the way that investigations into infant deaths were conducted. It also sparked broader discussions about women's rights and the treatment of women in the Irish legal system.