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8 Women Vanish Without A Trace

Ireland’s ‘Vanishing Triangle’ is a term used in the Irish media when referring to a number of high-profile disappearance cases of Irish women in the mid to late 1990s. The ‘Vanishing Triangle’ disappearance cases all appeared to have common characteristics;

the women were all young, 
they all lived within close proximity to one another,
they disappeared inexplicably and suddenly.

No substantial clues or evidence of their fate has ever been found despite large scale searches and campaigns by the Irish police force, or Gardaí, to find them.

‘The Vanishing Triangle’ is in the geographical location of the eastern part of the island, roughly the boundaries of Leinster.

Due to similarities in the cases, a popular theory is that they may be the result of a serial killer or killers being active in the area during this period. One of the most popular theories is that these missing women cases are a result of convicted rapist and attempted murderer, Larry Murphy. His links with the disappearances are quite unsettling, but I’ll get into that later.

The Missing Women

1.Annie McCarrick was 26 years old when she went missing under suspicious circumstances on March 26, 1993, while living in Sandymount, Co. Dublin.

McCarrick was born to John and Nancy McCarrick and grew up in Long Island, New York. She moved to Ireland in January 1987. She had left her apartment in Dublin so that she could go to the Wicklow Mountains for the day.

Wicklow Mountains

She had asked a friend to accompany her but her friend declined. CCTV captured images of McCarrick in the Allied Irish Bank located in Sandymount, where she was seen withdrawing money from her bank account. She went about her normal day and did some shopping at Quinnsworth supermarket before returning to her apartment at 3:00pm. She was seen on a bus at about 3:40pm in Ranelagh.

Between 9:00pm and 11:00pm, someone had claimed to have seen her at a pub called Johnnie Fox’s in Glencullen, talking to a young man who was wearing a wax jacket. The woman who was sighted by someone at the pub was believed to be McCarrick.

McCarrick had gone to see an Irish music and dancing show that was a traditional event called the Hooley Show, but McCarrick did not realise there was a cover charge. McCarrick’s male friend then paid for her, and continued to keep paying for her during her entire time in the pub.

Mysteriously, nobody saw either McCarrick or her male friend leave the pub, and the man’s identity was never discovered.

McCarrick had invited her friend, Hilary Brady and his girlfriend, Rita Fortune to dinner at her apartment the next day. When McCarrick was not there, they contacted her parents in New York and she was reported missing. McCarrick’s parents, John and Nancy McCarrick arrived in Ireland shortly after their daughter was reported missing.

They left after a six-month long unsuccessful search for McCarrick.

2. Eva Brennen from Rathgar Co. Dublin was 39 when she went missing on July 25, 1993.

Family and friends noted that Brennen seemed quite depressed prior to her disappearance. On the day she disappeared, Brennen attended a family lunch at her parent’s house in Rathgar. A couple of days later, Brennan’s father went to her apartment because she had not come to the family home for two days. He rang the door bell but no one answered. He then went over to the Horse and Hound Pub which the Brennan family owned and asked a barman to come over. The two men broke a window to gain access to Brennen’s apartment.

When they managed to get inside Brennen’s apartment her father noticed that the jacket she had worn on the day she was last seen having lunch in her parents house was there, so Brennan must have gone back to her apartment that day.

There was no initial Garda investigation known to the family for around three months. The Brennan family have criticised the Gardai on how they dealt with Brennan’s disappearance.

Rumours began to circulate and was repeated by some Gardai, that Eva may have known double-killer Michael Bambrick, who was convicted of killing and burying Patricia McGauley and Mary Cummins in Clondalkin, Dublin.

Brennan’s sister, Colette McCann said it was extremely unlikely she would have known Bambrick and Brennen had not, to anyone’s knowledge, been to Clondalkin or the south inner city where Bambrick originally came from.

McCann said her sister visited her parent’s home everyday, had lunch there and returned to her apartment and rarely went out.

There has been no real leads in this case, and she is still considered a missing person.

3. Imelda Keenan was from Mountmellick, Co. Laois. When she went missing on January 3 1994, she was only 22 years old.

Keenan was living in Waterford City with her boyfriend Mark Wall. They both lived in an apartment in the town on William Street. Keenan attended the Central Technical Institute in Waterford where she undertook a computer course for a short period.

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On the day of her disappearance, Keenan told her boyfriend that she was going to the post office. Keenan left the apartment at 1:30pm and walked down William Street onto Lombard Street. The last confirmed sighting of Keenan was at this time when she was seen crossing the road by a local doctor’s secretary who knew her well.

The secretary observed Keenan crossing the road at the corner of the Tower Hotel and Lombard Street.

She was never seen again and is still on the Gardai’s missing person list.

4. Josephine “JoJo” Dullard from Callan in Co. Kilkenny, was 21 years old when she went missing on November 9, 1995.

While living in Harold’s Cross, Co Dublin, Josephine had recently dropped out of a beauty therapy course after finding it very difficult to juggle work and college.

On the day she disappeared, she was planning on moving home to Callan. She had missed her bus home to Callan and had to take a bus to Naas, Co. Kildare instead. Dullard disappeared in the Moone area of Kildare.

Dullard was hitchhiking home from Dublin to Kilkenny, which is never good (please don’t hitchhike). She had been driven from the Dublin area to Kilcullen, Co. Kildare and then from Kilcullen to Moone.

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Dullard was last seen using a payphone and through telephone records, police found out the call was made at 11:37pm to Dollard’s friend, Mary Cullinan. She ended the call as she was about to enter another car. There was also an unconfirmed sighting of her walking along the road in Castledermot, Co. Kildare. The driver of the car has never been identified.

Dullard hasn’t been seen since.

5. Ciara Breen from Dundalk, Co. Louth was only 17 when she went missing on February 13, 1997, making her the youngest of the 8 missing women in the vanishing triangle.

Breen was last seen by her mother Bernadette, who said at the time they had both gone to bed just after midnight. At 2am, Bernadette got up to go to the toilet and discovered her daughter was missing.

Breen had left a window on the latch and it is believed she did so, so that she could climb back in. She was sneaking out, just being a typical teenager.

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There seemed to be a few developments in this case over the years. For example, a man was arrested in 1999 but was let go due to insufficient evidence. Then In 2014, two credible witnesses came forward with sightings of Ciara from the night she disappeared and in 2015, the same man was arrested but released without charge once again.

In July 2017, the very same guy was arrested for a third time over Ciara’s disappearance, but died in police custody the night he was arrested. However he insisted on his innocence all throughout the years.

A few months after the mans arrest and death, in September 2017 ‘historic’ remains were found in the garden of a home in county Louth, which was only 200 meters away from where Ciara lived. There was a lot of speculation that it could be the body of Ciara, but it turned out not to be.

In June of 2018, Ciaras mother passed away without ever discovering what happened to her daughter.

6. Fiona Pender of Tullamore Co. Offaly, went missing on August 23, 1996 when she was 25 years old.

She was a hairdresser and lived with her boyfriend, John Thompson. She was last seen leaving her apartment by her boyfriend. Pender was seven months pregnant at the time of her disappearance.

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In 2008, a small wooden cross bearing the name “Fiona Pender” was found on The Slieve Bloom Way at the border between Laois and Offaly, which lead to the belief that Pender was buried in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, however no body has been found.

Tagically, Fiona’s immediately family have died. A year before Fiona went missing, her brother died in a motorcycle accident. In 2000 her father took his own life and in 2017, her mother died of cancer.

However for Fiona, she is still considered missing, and presumed murdered.

7. Fiona Sinnott, 19, who lived in Broadway Co. Wexford, went missing on February 9th, 1998.

Sinnott was last seen leaving Butler’s Pub in Broadway. She left the pub with her ex-boyfriend and father to her 11-month-old daughter, Sean Carroll. During his conversation with investigators, Carroll told them that he had walked Sinnott back to her house in Ballyhitt, Wexford and that he had spent the night sleeping on her couch. Sinnott, who had been complaining of pains in her arm and upper body, had gone straight to bed.

The next morning, on Monday, February 9th, Carroll said that he walked into Sinnott’s bedroom and saw that she was awake. According to Carroll, Sinnott had told him that she was still in pain and that she had intended on hitching a lift to her physician later that day. Because Sinnott said that she had no money, Carroll told Gardai that he had given her £3. He then left the house and took a lift from his mother, who was waiting in a car outside.

Carroll and his mother then drove back to their family home, which was where Sinnott and Carroll’s daughter Emma had been staying at the time. Sinnott was never seen again.

During the investigation into Sinnott’s disappearance, it was discovered that she did not see a doctor that day (there were no records of her having visited any of the surgeries in the vicinity). The investigation also failed to find any evidence that she had been thumbing for a lift.

During a technical examination of Sinnott’s house, Gardai noticed that it had been stripped bare of a number of her personal belongings. According to retired detective sergeant Alan Bailey, there was a “complete absence of clothing and other personal items indicating that a teenage girl and her eleven-month-old daughter were actually living there.”

Later, locals would report that they had seen a number of black refuse bags outside of the property. As news of Sinnott’s disappearance continued to spread, a local farmer approached Gardai with news that he had discovered a number of black bags in the corner of one of his fields.

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Inside, he had found a number of items and documents that had Sinnott’s name written on them. Unfortunately, the farmer had set fire to these bags as he initially thought that it was just another case of illegal dumping. It wasn’t until news of Sinnott’s disappearance reached him that he realised how significant they were.

It was at this point that investigators began to suspect that somebody was trying to mislead them into thinking that Sinnott had run away. In 2005, the case was upgraded to a murder investigation.

On September 12, 2008, a memorial plaque for Sinnott was stolen from a cemetery in Our Lady’s Island in Wexford. The marble plaque, which had been cemented into the wall, was removed the night before it was due to be unveiled.

In 2017 and 2018, the family claimed to know who murdered Fiona, and it was reported the chief suspect was moving around from the UK to Spain and back in an attempt to complicate extradition bids if any evidence was ever found. None of the articles I read ever named this suspect, however they did say she may have known her killer.

Sadly after Sinnott’s disappearance, her family lost touch with her daughter Emma, who is now 22, 3 years older than the age her mother was when she disappeared.

Unfortunately Sinnott’s father passed away, and asked his brothers while he was on his deathbed to never stop looking for Fiona.

8. Deirdre Jacob, 18, of Newbridge, Co. Kildare, went missing on July 28, 1998.

Deirdre was living in Twickenham, London and studying at St Mary’s University but was home for the summer.

The day Deirdre disappeared, she was last seen about 3pm on 28 July 1998. She had gone to the Newbridge branch of Allied Irish Banks to get a bank draft to pay for student accommodation at university, then went to the post office to post the bank draft. She also visited her grandmother, who owned a shop.

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What is very unsettling about this particular case is that she disappeared just yards from her parents house as she walked home. Passing motorists witnessed Jacob approaching within yards of her parents driveway as well as numerous other sightings, but she never made it to her house. No trace has ever been found and she was never seen again.

Jacob’s parents have never been able to move on and still hope that someone with information on their daughter’s disappearance will come forward. They have appealed to the public for information several times over the years.

In 2016 Jacob’s parents said that there was not as strong a link between their daughter’s disappearance and convicted rapist Larry Murphy as was often supposed.

Gardai were never able to place Murphy in Newbridge the day she disappeared, until local builders came forward and gave statements that Murphy has been working in a hotel, just yards away from where Deirdre was last seen.

By 2018 Gardai had conducted 3,200 lines of inquiry and taken 2,500 witness statements. At the same time, a convicted murder who spent time with Larry Murphy while he was in prison gave a statement that one night in prison, when Murphy and this prisoner were drunk and high, Larry boasted about his part in Jacob’s murder.

Perhaps there was some truth to the prisoner’s claim, or perhaps the prisoner was lying in an attempt to receive some sort of reward for spilling information on Larry Murphy.

The investigation is currently on going.

Okay. So I mentioned the name Larry Murphy a lot but I haven’t really explained who he is.

Larry Murphy is an Irishman who, in 2001, was convicted of kidnapping, repeatedly raping, and attempting to murder a young woman in the Wicklow Mountains.

During the ordeal, Murphy kidnapped the woman and locked her in the rear of his car. He then drove to Kilkea in County Kildare, where he repeatedly raped and beat her.

She was then locked in the rear again while he drove to Spinans Cross in the Wicklow Mountains where he again raped her several times. The woman began to fight back and Murphy produced a plastic bag, which he placed over her head in an attempt to suffocate her.

He stopped his assault when two people came across the scene and recognised Murphy. Murphy fled the area and returned to his home.

The two men then escorted the terrified woman to the police station in Baltinglass, where they identified Murphy as her attacker. Murphy was arrested the next morning when members of the Garda Síochána came to his home. He knew why they were there and admitted what he had done the previous day. Murphy was later tried and convicted of rape and attempted murder.

During questioning about the woman’s injuries, it was reported that Murphy commented: “Well, she’s alive isn’t she?” and “She was lucky”. He showed no sign of remorse or guilt. Even though a life sentence was available to the court and would mean Murphy could be held in custody indefinitely, Judge Carney sentenced Murphy to only fifteen years (taking into account Murphy’s guilty plea which spared his victim having to testify) and he served just ten.

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His release caused a public outcry, mostly due to the fact that as he had refused treatment while in prison and never demonstrated any remorse. Murphy’s suspected involvement in the cases of The Vanishing Triangle also contributed to the controversy.

Although only convicted of this crime, Murphy is regarded as being the prime suspect in the disappearance of a number of young women in the mid to late 1990s in the Leinster area, when he was known to be living in the region; Eva Brennan (1993) Annie McCarrick (1993) Imelda Keenan (1994) Jo-Jo Dollard (1995) Fiona Pender (1996) Fiona Sinnott (1998) Ciara Breen (1998) Deirdre Jacob (1998).

In particular Murphy has been suspected of being responsible for the disappearances of Annie McCarrick, Jo-Jo Dollard and Deirdre Jacob, all of whom vanished close to the area where Murphy lived at the time.

The bodies of these individuals have never been found despite massive searches and investigations for over 10 years. Despite intensive questioning by Gardaí, Murphy denies any knowledge or involvement in the disappearance of these women. Murphy has since been ruled out as a suspect in the Dollard investigation.

There was widespread opposition upon Murphy’s early release, and the residents of his home town, Baltinglass, announced that he would not be welcome in the village.

It was known that Murphy had fled the country and taken up residence in the south of Spain, where he was under surveillance by police. Shortly afterwards he moved to Amsterdam. During his time there witnesses, unaware of his past, reported that he frequented several bars but was quiet and kept to himself. He drank and smoked cannabis regularly and at times approached and attempted to strike up conversation with young women.

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In time the media became aware of his location and under increased scrutiny from Dutch police, Murphy fled to Spain through France.

Living in the south of Spain, in late May 2011, Murphy’s wallet and passport were allegedly stolen while engaging the services of a sex worker. This led him to consult the Spanish authorities in a bid to travel back to Ireland to obtain a new passport. As a result of his background becoming known, there was much uproar among the local population regarding his presence there. Two weeks later, after his new documents were in order, he returned to southern Spain.

In November 2012 he was photographed by journalists in Amsterdam, where he was found living with a friend, a convicted double rapist. In June 2014, it was reported that he was living in South London under an alias, working as a carpenter. He is reportedly residing in Mullingar with 2 close friends.

And that is the story of Ireland’s Vanishing Triangle. Of course I’m not stating that Larry Murphy is responsible for all of these tragic and mysterious disappearances. However the syncing of the timelines and locations between Murphy’s past whereabouts and the missing women stirs a morbid curiosity within me.

We can only hope since Murphy refused treatment and rehabilitation in prison, that he wont offend again, despite being ruled as a constant on going danger to women.

Furthermore, we can only hope that the families of these 8 women finally get the answers they have been searching for in order to gain some sort of closure.