Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Special Victims Unit

Our normal blogging style doesn't really lend itself to an appropriate treatment of the disgusting and sickening revelations behind a police excavation of a garden in Dalkey, south Dublin. If you don't know about this case and are ready for something like the unsettled sleep and loss of appetite that we experienced after reading about it, here's the minimal RTE website version; we suspect it's minimal for legal reasons. Here's the more expansive Irish Times story from Wednesday's paper (may require subs.) and the Independent's version (reg. req'd) from the same day.

A summary would note credible accusations of incest that began with a very young victim and may have produced two babies, both deceased and perhaps murdered. The victim is now 43 and living in the UK, where she is receiving therapy but also deeply bitter about the State's slow progress in dealing with her case. Now, that case is going to raise spectres that have haunted other countries, notably the role of recovered memory testimony and the often lax attitude of police to missing persons cases. But the cagey news accounts do indeed point to some bizarre oversights by police and missed signals by others. Consider:

Over the last 30 years, 3 dead bodies: an unidentified baby, and within the victim's family, one suicide and one unexplained death among her brothers (the latter death reported by the Independent story above)

At least one and maybe two pregnancies in a young girl, who apparently was attending school

The very small world of Dublin, in which the young boy who found the dead baby later went on to report for the Irish Times on the victim's allegations almost twenty years later, in 1995

That as a result of the above, the police had lots of names and accumulating circumstantial evidence, but still no prosecution

And now the garden dig, after several years, it seems, of disagreement amongst experts about whether it would produce anything.

The prognosis is bleak. Right now it looks like the country is headed for its homegrown version of Belgium's trauma in the Marc Dutroux case.

ADDITIONAL LINKS: Thursday's Irish Times (may require subs); Thursday's Independent (reg. req'd); Friday's Irish Times (reporting on a TV interview with the victim's mother where she denied everything); Saturday's Irish Times

UPDATE 25 OCTOBER: Nothing has really happened since the initial allegations, other than accumulating evidence of a tragic and disturbed family. The woman above, 'Niamh', had referred to a sister who was also a victim of incest and had committed suicide. Her inquest noted the allegations but had no legal power to do anything. The final depressing footnote would be that there's nothing exclusively Irish about this problem; consider this case from New Jersey, albeit not involving the same lapse of time.

UPDATE 6 JUNE 2006: New developments. The woman's name is now known, Cynthia Owen. And a potential new lead on what happened to one of the babies. But [9 June], the lead goes cold -- due to the ridiculous practice that pertained in the 1970s of burying unidentified babies who had suffered suspicious deaths in communal graves and retaining no evidence. Hence an exhumation had little chance of finding the "right" remains while disturbing lots of others. A pathetic commentary on 1970s Ireland.

13 FEBRUARY 2007: An inquest on the murdered baby found in Dun Laoghaire; the ireland.com report is naming names, unlike RTE. It's not clear what evidence they have beyond that of witnesses at the time.

Day 2: RTE, ireland.com.

Day 3: RTE.

Did the body count associated with this household never attract any attention until Cynthia Owen spoke up? Unbelievable.

FINAL UPDATE: A verdict in the coroner's court. The jury identified the dead baby found in Dun Laoghaire as being from the Dalkey house and in effect determined that the baby was murdered.

Now too much material in this post; we'll link here if we do anything new on this case.