Irish police apologise to woman for falsely accusing her of murdering baby

An Irish police van. Source: AAP

A formal apology has been issued by Irish police to a woman for the 'awful stress and pain' she was put through after she was accused of murdering a baby.

Irish police have apologised to a woman who was falsely accused of murdering a baby more than 30 years ago.

Gardaí, the name of the Irish police force, on Tuesday said they were starting a cold case review into the murder of a baby boy after advanced DNA technology enabled them to rule out a woman accused of the crime.

The body of a newborn, who became known as 'Baby John', was found with stab wounds in a bag on White Strand Beach in Caherciveen, Co Kerry, on 14 April, 1984.

His identity and the circumstances of his death were never discovered.

The initial investigation led Gardaí at the time to 24-year-old local woman Joanne Hayes.

She had been known to have been pregnant and she was arrested. A murder confession from her and her family was later withdrawn after she claimed they had been coerced by Gardaí.

Ms Hayes' baby had died shortly after birth and had been buried on the family farm.

Baby John and Ms Hayes' baby became the focus of the 'Kerry Babies' case, but when it was established that Baby John had had a different blood group, Gardaí dropped the murder charge against Ms Hayes. The flawed investigation into the case launched a tribunal in which many aspects of the police force's enquiry were criticised.

Uncovering the answers

Thirty-four years on, Gardaí hope the cold case review will help them uncover the answers to what happened to Baby John.

They also offered a formal apology to the woman whom they had believed was the mother.

Superintendent Flor Murphy said: "Principally, a viable DNA profile has been obtained from samples taken from Baby John in the course of the original investigation.

"This sample has been examined and compared, and as a result of this analysis, we can conclusively state that Ms Joanne Hayes is not the mother of Baby John.

"The Acting Garda Commissioner has written to and spoken to Ms Hayes to formally apologise to her on behalf of the Gardaí, and I will now re-state that apology.

"It is a matter of significant regret for the Gardaí that it has taken such a long time for it to be confirmed that Ms Hayes is not the mother of Baby John.

"I would like to sincerely apologise to Ms Hayes for that, as well as the awful stress and pain she has been put through as a result of the original investigation into this matter, which fell well short of the required standards."

'Ireland was a different place'

Supt Murphy stated they had a duty and professional responsibility to uncover the truth of the case and called upon people who resided in the area at the time to share any information.

"While this investigation team cannot change what happened in the past, we can help find the answers into what happened to Baby John and are determined to do so," he said.

"Ireland was a different place in 1984. It was a different society with different societal pressures. We would hope that in the Ireland of 2018 that people will be more prepared to come forward."

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