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Missing by Barry Cummins

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Non Fiction

By Dymphna Nugent

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Missing: The Unsolved Cases of Ireland’s Vanished Women and Children

According to Barry Cummins, close to 9,500 people are reported missing in Ireland every year. At the close of any given year, many of those missing persons become a statistic, with the reality being that from 1950 to present day Ireland, 870 people remain missing. Missing. With absolutely no trace and no solace offered for those left behind in limbo, with no grave or closure. This new and extremely comprehensive book is a product of over 30 years of investigations into those disappearances which remain unsolved and by extension, the murderers who are essentially at large in society still.

In 1987, Antoinette Smith disappeared after a David Bowie concert in Slane. She was found on Easter Sunday 1988, buried in the Wicklow mountains in a section of peat bog. Cummins identifies the truly terrifying reality that although the body of Antoinette Smith was found, those responsible were never identified. The reality, and the likelihood, is that they are walking around amongst us every single day. Her two young girls aged seven and four were left without a mother, with the attack being sexually motivated.

In March 1993, Annie McCarrick went missing from Co. Wicklow. The strength of Cummins’ writing shines here as much care is taken to portray Annie McCarrick as a person, as opposed to a statistic. Annie was American, she was 26, but she also wanted to be a teacher. Annie was ironing before she went missing, she had a favourite coat, a tweed coat and she adored Ireland. Someone stole those characteristics when they killed Annie McCarrick. Her body was never found and her parents have subsequently separated, no closure or justification of their grief has ever been offered. This makes the reality of these missing women so striking, that sometimes there is nowhere to grieve and no remains to bring home.

One of the most highly documented cases in Ireland is that of 21 year old Co. Kilkenny woman, Jo Jo Dullard. Her last words were spoken from a public payphone in Moone, Co Kildare from where she was hitching a lift home. A car stopped and Jo Jo Dullard was never heard from again. Both parents were deceased and Jo Jo lived with her sister until she was about sixteen. Her disappearance tore apart the loves of her family and Barry Cummins builds a strong narrative around the persona of Jo Jo Dullard and the strong network of family around her. There is a feeling among the Gardaí that the guilty party may have been questioned at some point during the investigation but Jo Jo’s sister, Kathleen maintains that the Gardaí were slow to respond to her initial report and her sister Mary, now deceased expressed a belief from day one that someone in Moone who was known to Jo Jo was to be searched. This line of enquiry was never explored by the GardaI.

In a challenging investigative decision, Barry Cummins not only explores the disappearance of Ireland’s missing women, but also Ireland’s missing children. Ireland’s youngest missing person is Mary Boyle, aged six, who disappeared from her native Co. Donegal in March 1977. Thirty miles away, some seven years previously, Bernadette Connolly disappeared, aged ten. Bernadette was found in a bog drain in Co. Roscommon. Barry Cummins describes Mary Boyle in vulnerable terms, with her ‘black wellington boots occasionally getting stuck in the mud’ as she walked the day she disapperared. Barry Cummins, in conjunction with the families of the deceased has examined each case with the real possibility being raised that a serial killer may be responsible, who has never been brought to justice. Society is in danger of being desensitized to these atrocious statistics, Cummins asks the question of us ‘How many killers have gotten away with their crimes?’

(c) Dymphna Nugent

Order your copy online here.

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