This article Did this DJ really kill Philip Cairns? is by John Mooney from the Sunday Times .
AT FIRST the story seemed fantastical and unlikely. The woman claimed to
know what had become of Philip Cairns, the 13-year-old who disappeared
after heading to school from his home in Rathhfarnham on Dublin’s southside
on the afternoon of October 23, 1986.
In a series of meetings with detectives, the woman recounted how she had
watched the convicted paedophile Eamon Cooke beat the teenager to death by
hitting him across the head with a metal object in a fit of rage. Some of
the details were specific; others less so.
The woman recalled seeing Philip lying on the floor of a studio at Radio
Dublin, a pirate station which Cooke operated from a ramshackle bungalow in
Inchicore in the 1980s. The woman, who was nine years old at the time, did
not know what happened next, however, because she fainted.
By the time she came forward, Cooke was close to death. The Irish Prison
Service freed him on temporary release on May 16, 2016, so he could be
admitted to St Francis Hospice in Raheny.
Detectives at Rathfarnham station arranged to visit Cooke as he lay on his
death bed. The former DJ, who was heavily medicated, is said to have given
“yes” and “no” answers when asked about Philip Cairns. He is thought to
have admitted that he knew the schoolboy, but volunteered nothing further.
He was offered the chance to speak to a solicitor or priest but declined.
He died on June 6, aged 79. The father of 11 was later buried alongside the
first of three wives, Lena.
So are gardai any closer to solving the decades-old mystery of what
happened to Philip? Did one of Ireland’s most notorious paedophiles really
abduct and murder the youngster after luring him to a radio studio? Or are
the gardai pursuing yet another line of inquiry which is likely to prove
fruitless, bringing no closure for the long-suffering Cairns family?
Until last month, Cooke was never suspected of involvement in the abduction
and presumed murder of Philip Cairns. Gardai had never even established
whether this was a random abduction or carried out by someone who knew the
The teenager had not shown any outward signs of being concerned in the
weeks before he disappeared, according to his mother Alice. There is no
suggestion he was killed to protect the identity of someone who had been
The most puzzling aspect of the case was the discovery of Philip’s
schoolbag in a lane just yards from his home on Ballyroan Road, six days
after he vanished. This suggested that the killer had returned to the
scene, or induced others to do so. Possibly, however, the gardai simply had
not searched the Rathfarnham area properly.
More than 100 officers were assigned to the inquiry at its peak but many
detectives now say the investigation was ineffective and insufficient by
Cooke was never identified as a suspect although he was under investigation
for abusing young girls. By the 1990s several female victims had come
forward to say he sexually abused and assaulted them. The evidence gathered
as part of these investigations suggested that Cooke had a sexual interest
only in young girls, though he was once questioned about the alleged abuse
of a boy.
In 2003, Cooke was convicted of abusing four girls between 1976 and 1978,
but this was overturned in 2006 following an appeal. He was retried in 2007
and convicted on charges relating to two of the four original victims, and
sentenced to 10 years in jail. Charges arising from complaints made by two
other women were ruled inadmissable for legal reasons.
Cooke was known to gardai for other reasons. In 1957 he was convicted of
shooting at police in Bray, Co Wicklow. As a juvenile he was charged with
Despite the serious nature of the convictions, some gardai in the Dublin
Metropolitan Area regarded Cooke as a Walter Mitty figure, who often
involved himself in garda operations and patrolled the city at night in
search of crimes.
At one time Cooke installed a CB radio and a blue flashing light in his
Jaguar car, and pursued stolen cars. He used the call-sign “Alpha 7” to
report the movements of stolen vehicles in central Dublin which he himself
pursued and rammed, according to Brian Sherry, a retired detective.
“He was a nutter. Time and again you would arrive at a scene and he would
be standing around. He seemed to draw pleasure from watching crimes,” said
When Philip Cairns disappeared, Cooke was before the courts charged with
conspiracy to commit arson. He pleaded guilty to the offence two days
before the teenager’s disappearance and received a suspended sentence two
At the time Cooke was the proprietor of Radio Dublin, a pirate radio
station which he operated out of the bungalow in Inchicore, where he also
lived. But Cooke also owned a house in Tallaght, south Dublin, where he is
thought to have abused children.
According to security sources, the witness who has implicated Cooke in
Philip’s abduction and murder was one of several girls from Tallaght whom
he sexually abused. Statements which she previously made about Cooke proved
accurate and stood up to scrutiny, say gardai, which helps explain why her
claims are being taken seriously and actively pursued.
Alan Bailey, a retired detective who served with the force’s cold-case
unit, a branch of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said some
victims of child sex abuse came forward only after their abuser had died,
or was close to death.
“You can’t ignore evidence, even if it’s being provided 30 years too late.
People can remain silent for all sorts of reasons. Some sex abusers are
capable of instilling absolute fear into their victims. The very mention of
their names is enough to guarantee silence,” said Bailey, who described
Philip Cairns’s disappearance as a singular event in Irish history.
“In 1986, and even to this day, cases like this are virtually unheard of.
Philip was Ireland’s Madeleine McCann. Everyone knows what he looked like.
Everyone has wondered what happened to him. Everyone has a theory.”
Bailey said he couldn’t reconcile how “Cooke from Inchicore could be
connected to Cairns, the young schoolboy from Rathfarnham”.
Some of Cooke’s victims believe the paedophile was more than capable of
killing a child, however. One victim who testified against Cooke in both
trials said she did not believe he would have set out to abduct and murder
a child, but would have been capable of doing so in a fit of rage.
“Cooke abused children because it gave him a sense of power and control,”
she said. “He groomed children before he abused them and enjoyed
blackmailing them afterwards. With him, it was all about power. Could he
have abducted and murdered Philip Cairns? I would say yes, but possibly by
accident. He could fly off the handle.”
The case has been the subject of conspiracy theories from the start.
Anonymous letters began arriving at the Cairns household and at Rathfarnham
garda station within weeks of the boy’s disappearance. Some nominated known
sex offenders as the likely culprit.
Gardai say they have investigated every plausible claim. In 1994, they were
told that a group of schoolboys knew what had happened but had remained
silent as part of a secret pact. The suggestion was that Philip had been
killed or pushed into a river and drowned, and his body swept away.
Gardai have searched woodlands and golf courses in south Dublin acting on
tip-offs. In 2009, a woman came forward to say she believed the teenager’s
remains were buried at the Grange golf club in Rathfarnham, close to his
home in south Dublin. Nothing was found despite exhaustive searches.
The gardai say they are actively pursuing various lines of inquiry and have
confirmed they are treating the latest information as credible.
Philip Cairns’s old schoolbag may still hold vital DNA evidence. If gardai
can link any DNA samples found on it to Cooke’s victims, possibly children
he may have coerced, it would tend to confirm the story, providing them
with the grounds to search land he owned and where he might have concealed
Cooke owned several plots of land in remote parts of the Dublin/Wicklow
mountains, but also in rural Ireland. One officer, who investigated Cooke’s
abuse of children, last week remarked that if he did abduct Philip, he is
likely to have buried the boy on land that he owned. “He didn’t take
chances,” remarked the detective.
Last week Peter Duff, the superintendent who is leading the investigation,
urged people who may have been asked to leave the victim’s schoolbag in a
laneway to come forward. He did not mention Cooke by name, but said he
believed that children may have been coerced into placing the schoolbag
where it was found, and that their involvement may “now be playing on their
“I am conscious that with the passage of time and changed circumstances,
these people may now be in a position to help,” said Duff, publicly
assuring any witnesses sensitivity and discretion.
“For the sake of Mrs Cairns and her family who have been suffering for 30
years, it is important that we bring this investigation to a conclusion.”
There are also many other articles online eg 2016 Jun 14 Broadsheet Philip Cairns and a Trail of Disinformation 
Other articles relevant to child sexual abuse see [constantly updated] Index Timeline of Newspaper Articles on Cathy Fox Blog 
Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. These links are generally UK based.
- The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.
- National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups.
- Other useful sites are One in Four [C]
- and Havoca [D].
- Useful post on Triggers [E] from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog.
- Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G] and Meditation [H] may be useful.
- Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma [J]
- Survivors UK for victims and survivors of male rape or the sexual abuse of men [K]
- Voicing CSA group [L] helps arrange survivors meetings in your area
 2016 Jun 19 Sunday Times Did this DJ really kill Philip Cairns? http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/did-this-dj-really-kill-philip-cairns-wfgdblp6p
 2015 Cathy Fox Blog Index / Timeline of Court Appeals and Documentation https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/a-timeline-of-court-and-ewca-documentation-on-cathy-fox-blog/
 2016 Jun 14 Broadsheet Philip Cairns and a Trail of Disinformation http://www.broadsheet.ie/2016/06/14/philip-cairns-and-a-trail-of-disinformation/
 2016 Cathy Fox Blog Index Timeline of Newspaper Articles on Cathy Fox Blog
 2016 Jun 19 Cathy Fox Blog Eamon Cooke Appeal 1 2003 https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/eamon-cooke-appeal-1-2003/
 2016 Jun 19 Cathy Fox Blog Eamon Cooke Appeal 3 2015 https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/eamon-cooke-appeal-2-2007/
 2016 Jun 19 Cathy Fox Blog Eamon Cooke Appeal 2 2009 May 11 https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/eamon-cooke-app