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Kerry Babies: Gardaí to review murdered 'Baby John' case

Beach
Image caption The body of 'Baby John' was found on White Strand beach, Kerry, in 1984

Irish police are to review the case of the death of a baby boy whose body was found on a beach in County Kerry in 1984.

"Baby John" was found with 28 stab wounds at White Strand beach, Cahersiveen, on 14 April.

A second baby was found buried on a Kerry farm and a flawed police investigation led to the so-called "Kerry Babies" tribunal.

It became one of the most divisive sagas in modern Irish history.

Image caption The body of another baby was found at the Hayes family farm

The tribunal reflected poorly on how Irish police handled the investigation and the attitudes towards women and, in particular, single mothers in Ireland at that time.

A 24-year-old woman, Joanne Hayes, had been accused of the murder of Baby John. This charge was later dropped.

At the time, she had given birth to another baby boy whose body was found buried at her family farm in Dromcunnig, Abbeydorney, Kerry, 40 miles from the beach.

The tribunal found that she could not have been the mother of Baby John, found on the beach.

At a press conference on Tuesday, police formally apologised to Ms Hayes for the stress and pain she suffered.

Using modern techniques, forensic scientists have now built a DNA profile which further confirms that she could not have been the mother of Baby John.

Shane Harrison, BBC NI Dublin correspondent

The Ireland of 1984 was, in some ways, a very different place to today.

Attitudes to sex outside marriage were harsh; many regarded it as sinful.

Such views were, perhaps, reflected in the garda investigation that focussed on Joanne Hayes, a single mother.

Divorce was still illegal and the year before, citizens had put an anti-abortion amendment into the constitution giving equal rights to life to the mother and the unborn.

The garda treatment of Miss Hayes focussed attention at the time on women's rights.

Since then, the constitutional ban on divorce has been lifted and same-sex marriage has been introduced.

Later this year, it is expected that there will be a referendum to remove the ban on abortion with the government considering allowing unrestricted pregnancy terminations up to 12 weeks.

Such developments would have been almost unthinkable at the time of the Kerry babies controversy.

The baby found dead at her family farm did share the same blood type as Ms Hayes.

In 1984, Garda investigators theorised that Ms Hayes had become pregnant with twins by two different fathers and that she had killed Baby John who was found on White Strand beach.

Gardai extracted a confession from the Hayes family that Joanne Hayes had stabbed the baby to death and the family had disposed of his body. However, the family insisted those confessions were forcibly given.

Charges against the Hayes family were later dropped.

Image caption Joanne Hayes gave an interview to the BBC at that time

The Kerry Babies Tribunal was set up in late 1984 to investigate the garda handling of the case.

Mr Justice Kevin Lynch, who led the tribunal, rejected the claims by the Hayes family that they had been intimidated by gardaí into making false confessions.

Modern DNA profiling underlines that Ms Hayes was not the mother and that police are still searching for his parents.

The dead infant was buried at a cemetery in Cahersiveen. An inscription on his grave reads: "I am the Kerry baby baptised on 14-4-1984 named John. I forgive."

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