efore retiring, Detective Alan Bailey was in charge of the Garda Cold Case Unit and also spent 13 years working as National Coordinator for the specialist task force, Operation T.R.A.C.E which focused on some of Ireland’s most profile missing persons cases.
“Twenty five years of silence.
Monday the 9th November will mark the twenty fifth anniversary of the disappearance of Jo Jo Dollard.
A disappearance that is, to this day, still as shrouded in mystery as deep as it was all those years ago.
At 11.30 pm on that fateful November night Jo Jo stepped out of a telephone kiosk on the main street of the village of Moone in Co Kildare and got into the back seat of a car. She was never to be seen again.
Earlier that day Jo Jo had taken the bus from Callan in Co Kilkenny to Dublin to collect her Social Welfare payment at the Post Office in Harold’s Cross.
With her bus back to Kilkenny not due to leave until after 6pm she decided to call into Bruxelles pub in the south inner city where she knew she would meet some of her former acquaintances and catch up on all the “gossip.”
During the course of a relaxed afternoon, Jo Jo met with a former ‘flame’ and they agreed to spend the night together.
A room was booked by phone in a hotel in the Amiens Street area of the city.
Sometime after 6pm, at around the same time as her bus was leaving for home, an argument ensued between Jo Jo, the young man she had met – as well as another female who had joined their company.
The other two left the pub shortly after, effectively leaving Jo Jo stranded and alone in Dublin.
Instead of booking into a hostel or a hotel, she decided to go to the bus station and see if there was any late night buses running to Kilkenny.
Arriving at the bus depot after 9pm she found that the last bus was leaving and would only go as far as Naas.
She then made a decision then that would cost her her life. She decided to take the bus to Naas and to hitch a lift from there to Kilkenny.
It is hard to believe now, some twenty five years later, that it was quite a common sight back in those days to see people hitch hiking – or ‘thumbing’ as it was more popularly known – on Irish roads both by day and by night. Indeed, many would argue that the practice died with Jo Jo’s disappearance.
The first lift she got took her just some twelve kilometres to the town of Kilcullen.
Prophetically the driver warned her to be careful and suggested she book into a bed and breakfast.
In Kilcullen she got a second lift, this time travelling as far as the village of Moone. At that stage she was halfway into her journey home.
Arriving in Moone at 11.3pm, Jo Jo went into a telephone kiosk and rang a friend in Callan to tell her she was on her way.
During the conversation, Jo Jo stood in the kiosk with the door partially open with her hand extended out and thumb pointed upwards, the recognised form of letting drivers know she was looking for a lift.
A dark coloured four door car pulled up beside the phone kiosk and Jo Jo told her friend: “I have a lift, I’m off.”
She was seen getting into the back seat of the car. This would be her last contact with friends and family.
The alarm was not raised until later the following day when she failed to turn up for work.
After a number of frantic phone calls to friends and acquaintances, her sister Kathleen called into the local Garda station to report her missing.
Kathleen would tell me years later that she felt that her report was not taken seriously. Indeed it would be another three days before an official investigation was launched into the young girls’ disappearance.
Enquiries and searches were concentrated on the area where she had last been seen alive and extended for some miles in either direction from the village. A lot of the Garda manpower and investigation was concentrated on the movements of a local man, a decision that possibly led to other leads not receiving the fullest attention.
A little over a month later later another female would disappear. Marilyn Rynn was reported missing from the Blanchardstown area of Dublin. After some fourteen days of searching her naked body was discovered in a park near her home. She had been raped and strangled. A local man, David Lawler, would later be arrested and charged with Marilyn’s murder. He would later make history by becoming the first murder to be solved in this country through DNA evidence.
What made Lawler a person of interest to the Gardai working on Jo Jo’s case was the fact that he was a native of the area she was last seen alive. It would also later transpire that Lawler had gone to school with another notorious rapist from the same area, one Larry Murphy. In the event, Lawler was eventually ruled out of any involvement in the murder of Jo Jo Dollard.
Some fifteen months after Jo Jo’s disappearance Gardai learned about an incident near the village of Kilmacow in County Waterford on the night she had gone missing.
At around 1am a local man had come upon a car parked on the side of the road with a man urinating beside it. As he drove past the car the rear door burst open and a barefoot girl jumped out and tried to run away.
A second man jumped out of the rear of the car and grabbed the girl, pulling her back into the car which then drove away at speed. Driving at normal speeds this location would fit in with the time line from when Jo Jo was seen getting into a car some one hundred and twenty kilometres away.
The focus of the Garda investigation was then switched to this new area, in particular into the movements of a notorious sex offender who lived in the vicinity. Undoubtedly any forensic evidence that might have been available was lost, together with the momentum that such information would have lent to the investigation had it been known earlier. Nothing was ever established to forensically link this male to the disappearance.
By 1998 the search for Jo Jo had gone cold. During that same time frame a further four young girls had also gone missing. The Garda Commissioner set up a specialist task force of trained investigator called Operation TRACE to reopen all the various cases. There was a very real fear in many quarters that a serial killer was operating along the eastern seaboard of Ireland, an area dubbed by many in the media as the ‘Vanishing Triangle’.
While the disappearance of Jo Jo remains unsolved to the present day the task force established that in at least three of the four other cases their killers were known to the young girls who had disappeared and were not connected to the other cases.
Orphaned at an early age, Jo Jo was reared by her sisters Kathleen and Mary, both of whom have fought tirelessly to ensure that the search for their baby sister continued. Unfortunately Kathleen died in April 2018 before her dream of being reunited with Jo Jo was realised, leaving Mary to carry on the campaign alone.
This family has suffered enough, they deserve to know what happened to Jo Jo, to, at the very least, be allowed bring her body home and give her a Christian burial and them a place to go to mourn.
Those responsible for this attractive young woman’s disappearance and death have been sheltered throughout by others close to them, their violent crime ignored or, at least, accepted. Their loyalty will have been based on either a mistaken sense of love and loyalty or fear of reprisal.
By remaining silent you are, whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, condoning the brutal and savage rape and murder of an innocent girl whose only sin was to place her trust in those same people you are protecting.
I would appeal to the person who, some twenty five years later, is still sheltering these people, who are more than likely parents and even grandparents in their own right, to put his or her self in the shoes of the Dollard family.
It is time to tell the truth, to do the right thing, it will only take one phone call.