11 The stunning Wicklow Mountains Credit: Getty Vanished on walk
On the day she vanished, Annie was looking forward to a trip from mum Nancy and had bought theatre tickets for the following week.
“She went to the phone box and made several calls,” says Linda Ringhouse, Annie’s best friend from the age of four.
“We know she went to the bank. She turns and eerily looks at the (CCTV) camera.
“That's a really difficult last image of her, knowing she was close to the end.”
Annie dropped her groceries in the hall of her Dublin flat, suggesting she was in a hurry, then caught a bus to Enniskerry to walk the foothills of Wicklow Mountains.
“After that there’s not much we can be sure of,” says Linda. “That’s where the mystery begins.”
At 9pm, a woman matching Annie’s description was seen entering Johnny Fox’s pub, in the base of the mountains, followed by a man who paid her entrance fee.
Police would later put out a photofit of the man – described as “Square jaw, 5’8” – 5’10”, well built ‘rugby style’, mid to late 20s,
“He’s never come forward to say he was out on a date with her,” Linda says. “I think she left with him and that was the end.”
Mum Nancy claims local police – known as Gardai – told the family “she’ll probably come back.”
Frustrated, the family hired a private eye and even offered a £50,000 reward for information but no more clues were found.
She adds: “I encouraged her to go (to Ireland) and find out if she wanted to make her life there. If I had it to do over I wouldn’t.”
Two years later, on Thursday November 9 1995, Josephine ‘JoJo’ Dullard vanished after missing her bus home to Callan, County Kilkenny and hitchhiking from Dublin.
Last seen in Moone, she called a pal at 11.37pm, and said she had to go because she had a lift. She was never seen again.
Older sister Kathleen Bergin was alerted to JoJo’s disappearance when the landlord of a local pub where she worked rang to say she hadn’t turned up for work.
“I called the Gardai but because she was over 18 they couldn’t act for so many hours,” she says. “I had this horrible feeling that something was seriously wrong.”
Kathleen claims the Gardai at Baltinglass, which covers the Moone area, wasn’t told until Monday morning and says the lack of concern led her to launch her one search of the area.
“We tried to figure out where did she go? We were in the dark. We hadn’t a clue. We were (thinking) ‘Dear God, is this happening? Are we looking for her body?”
Kathleen found no trace of her sister and says: “Whoever did this has hidden her so well that she can’t be found, she could be anywhere.”
Nine months later, on August 23 1996, Fiona Pender, who was 25 and seven months pregnant, disappeared. She was last seen by her partner at their home in Tullamore
The following year, on February 13, 17-year-old Ciara Breen vanished after sneaking out of her mum’s home in Dundalk.
Fiona Sinnot, a single mum from Wexford, was 19 when she disappeared on February 9 1998 and was last seen with her ex boyfriend who confirmed he walked her home after a night out with pals.
Five months later, 18-year-old Deirdre Jacobs, who was home on a break from her teacher training course in London, disappeared from outside her parents' house in Newbridge, County Kildare, at 3.30pm, on July 28 1998.
The 18-year-old was caught on CCTV camera visiting the local post office and had also been to local shops before she vanished.
“Broad daylight in a rural town, one of the safest places in Ireland. You couldn't imagine a safer place,” says Detective Thomas Rock, adding that with six women missing in five years, “the pressure was intense because at that time there was somebody out there” who could be getting away with murder.
The hunt was on for a potential serial killer.
A new twist came on Feb 11, 2000, after a young businesswoman was attacked as she got into her car in Carlow.
She was punched in the face, bundled into the boot of a car and driven 40km to the forest landscape of the Wicklow mountains, where she was beaten and repeatedly raped.
A plastic bag was placed over her head and she was raped again, but she was rescued from certain death by two poachers who also recognised her attacker.
He was Larry Murphy – a builder from Baltinglass, just a few metres away from the site of the attack.
During questioning by police over the attack, it was reported that Murphy commented "Well, she's alive isn't she?" and: "She was lucky.”
After pleading guilty to false imprisonment, sexual assault and attempted murder, Murphy was sentenced to 15 years,
But he was released after ten years, despite a damning psychiatric report which described him as having a “psychopathic personality disorder” and being “aggressive, cunning and quick-thinking – holding views that are likely to increase propensity for sexual offending.”
Martin believes the sentence was too lenient.
“If that was in America, they'd get a life plus 100 years,” he says.
“He didn't engage actively in any of the courses for sex offenders or he didn’t show any contrition. Those are serious considerations for the parole board.”
After his arrest, the Gardai looked into links with the missing women.
An FBI profile, put together on the suggestion of an agent friend of the McCarricks, suggested the killer was a “married man, with children and no run-ins with the law who has perfected the craft of kidnapping, killing and disposing".
As a hunter, Murphy was licensed to shoot in the Wicklow Mountains, so knew the area intimately, and his job involved digging quarries and septic tanks.
He also matched the description of the man who was seen with Annie, at Johnny Fox’s, and an individual caught on CCTV in the post office where Deirdre Jacobs was last seen.
When questioned about the disappearance of the women by the Gardai while he was behind bars, Murphy walked out of the interview and refused to return.
The daughter of a seventh woman, Antionette Smith, who was murdered in July 1987 and was found eight months later in Glendoo Mountains, in Enniskerry, believes Murphy should be questioned over her death but Gardai have ruled him out as a suspect.
Although there was no DNA evidence, she had been raped and strangled and her head was covered in a plastic bag.
Rachel Smith was told Murphy, 22 at the time, was too young to have committed the crime, but Martin disagrees.
“If it’s in someone to kill somebody, it's not going to turn on overnight. It's going to be simmering there from an early age,” he says.
Forensic expert David Kenny also believes the rape of the woman in Carlow could not have been Murphy’s first crime.
“There’s usually a degree of progression,” he says. “There is no evidence but on the balance of probability someone who does something like that will have done something horrible before.”
He also says the fact that Murphy drove 40km “to within a couple of hundred metres from his own home … had me scratching my head.
“A 40km radius works out at 5000sq km of ground – it would offer the driver a hell of a lot of options of woodland, farmland, ditches etc. Why would you do that?”
In 2010, the case of Deirdre Jacobs was revisited after a prisoner who shared a cell with Murphy claimed he had confessed to the murder and told him he had dragged the teenager into the car and driven her to a remote spot, where he murdered her.
Incredibly, it was not until 2018, when Martin Walker was reinvestigating the murders of Deirdre and JoJo, that the teenager’s case was recategorised as a murder investigation.
“Upgrading to murder means more powerful investigative tools,” he explains. “You are entitled to search property and you have better international cooperation with our colleagues across the water.”
In 2021, Martin submitted a case to the Director of Public Prosecution for the arrest and prosecution of the main suspect in Deirdre’s murder, although their review found there was not enough evidence to get any conviction over the line.
In his own investigation, David Kenny found a document revealing the location of a souterrain – an underground chamber – in the Wicklow Mountains which he says is the “perfect ready-made place to dump a body.”
It’s there the two cadaver dogs – who can smell decaying flesh – are put into action at the end of the documentary and individually, indicate to their handler that they have detected a smell.
“I have no doubt there are bodies here,” the dog handler says.
Investigators now believe that three of the women – Fiona Pender, Fiona Sinnot and Ciara Breen – were murdered by people they knew but Martin believes Deirdre, JoJo and Annie may have been murdered by the same man.
He said: “It’s conceivable and I think people will be revisited occasionally over the years to come. I think in time we will get sufficient information to get that over the line.”
A statement at the end of the documentary reads: “Gardai are not investigating Larry Murphy in connection with Antionette Smith. He remains one of a number of persons of interest in murders of Annie McCarrick and JoJo Dullard and the sole suspect in the murder of Deirdre Jacob.
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“Programme makers were unable to reach Larry Murphy for comment.”
Six Silent Killings: Ireland's Vanishing Triangle airs on Sky Documentaries tonight
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