Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEONA O’NEILL

THE fam­ily of a Co Ty­rone doc­tor who dis­ap­peared on a re­mote beach in Done­gal 10 years ago say that Garda has ques­tions to an­swer over a new search that has left them “dis­tressed”.

Deirdre Don­nelly O’Fla­herty has not been seen since Jan­uary 2009 when her car was dis­cov­ered at Kin­nego Bay.

No trace was ever found of the 46-year-old, who had been stay­ing at a nearby hol­i­day home with her hus­band Ken and their chil­dren Johnny, who was 16 at the time, Thomas, then 15, and Natalie, who was seven.

Mrs Don­nelly O’Fla­herty, who worked as an out-of-hours doc­tor in Stra­bane, had a his­tory of de­pres­sion.

In 2012 a judge in Belfast for­mally de­clared that she had drowned after en­ter­ing the sea.

Last week, as her fam­ily pre­pared to mark the 10th an­niver­sary of her death, the Garda car­ried out a search for her body 60 miles away from where her car was left.

The land search and ex­ca­va­tion, cen­tred on the site of a wind farm close to Rath­mul­lan in Co Done­gal, was car­ried out by mem­bers of the Done­gal Di­vi­sional Search Team and Garda Tech­ni­cal Bureau along with pri­vate con­trac­tors.

On Fri­day po­lice an­nounced that noth­ing had been found.

In a state­ment yes­ter­day, the Don­nelly and O’Fla­herty fam­i­lies said they were “dis­tressed” by the new search, which they said was “en­tirely un­ex­pected”.

They ex­pressed their heart­felt grat­i­tude to those who sent mes­sages of sup­port over what for them has been “a tu­mul­tuous and dis­tress­ing week” lead­ing up to the an­niver­sary of Deirdre’s dis­ap­pear­ance. They said the search was con­ducted 17 months after an anony­mous let­ter was re­ceived by the Garda claim­ing to know where her re­mains were buried.

“The fam­i­lies are re­lieved only be­cause this or­deal is over, al­though in our view the out­come was not in doubt,” they said. “No­ti­fi­ca­tion that gardai were go­ing to carry out a land search for Deirdre was en­tirely un­ex­pected, not least given that the find­ing by or­der of Judge Deeney at Belfast High Court on Jan­uary 12, 2012 that Deirdre had ‘gone into the wa­ter and drowned’ was sup­ported by the oral ev­i­dence of the in­ves­ti­gat­ing Garda Sergeant.

“As far as the fam­i­lies are aware there has not in fact been any on­go­ing search for Deirdre since at least that time.

“The fam­i­lies had only three days’ ad­vance no­tice of the gardai ex­ca­va­tions near Mil­ford, Co Done­gal, and there­fore had lit­tle time to pre­pare for the con­se­quences of the very pub­lic, na­tional ex­po­sure of this story dur­ing the week.

“Gardai con­firmed to the fam­i­lies at that time that the de­ci­sion to con­duct the ex­ca­va­tion in a re­mote area over 50 miles from her last known where­abouts flowed from an anony­mous note handed in to a Garda sta­tion in Co Mon­aghan in Au­gust 2017.

“This note ap­par­ently pro­vided pre­cise map co­or­di­nates for the lo­ca­tion of Deirdre’s re­mains.

“The fam­i­lies have not seen this note and this in­for­ma­tion was not made pub­lic due to the on­go­ing na­ture of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“In their Press re­lease on Fri­day, gardai stated that they had ‘found noth­ing to fur­ther the search’. Ac­cord­ingly, the fam­i­lies have re­quested a meet­ing with the gardai in­ves­ti­ga­tion team to dis­cuss a num­ber of ques­tions re­lat­ing to the con­duct, con­clu­sions and con­se­quences of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The Garda said it will not com­ment on an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

❝ As far as the fam­i­lies are aware there has not in fact been any on­go­ing search for Deirdre

Mys­tery: Dr Deirdre O’Fla­herty

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