Ireland's Vanishing Triangle

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Ireland's "Vanishing Triangle"[1][2][3] is a term commonly used in the Irish media when referring to a number of high-profile disappearances of Irish women in the mid to late 1990s.


The "Vanishing Triangle" disappearances cases all appeared to share some common characteristics, for example; the women were all young, ranging from their late teens to forty years of age; they disappeared inexplicably and suddenly and no substantial clues or evidence of their fate has ever been found despite large scale searches and campaigns by the Irish police force, or Gardaí, to find them. Another important characteristic is that all disappearances occurred in an area which became known in the media as "The Vanishing Triangle". The triangle is in the eastern part of the island, roughly the boundaries of Leinster.[1] To date the unofficial list of Ireland's missing women numbers six. Due to similarities in the cases, a popular hypothesis is that they may be the result of a serial killer or killers being active in the area during this period. The cases of these missing women feature in the Irish media periodically and the disappearances have been the subject in a number of unsolved crime documentaries, the TV-3 (Irl) production "Disappeared in the Mountains" being one example.[4] Irish police set up Operation Trace to focus on unsolved disappearance but to date this has failed to turn up any substantial clues as to the fate of the women despite a €10,000 reward offered for information resulting in the recovery of a body.

The missing women[edit]

The following women are usually included in the unofficial listing:

  1. Annie McCarrick, 26 of Long Island, New York, went missing on March 26, 1993. She was living in Sandymount, Co. Dublin. The last confirmed sighting of her was at a post office in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. However, there was an unconfirmed sighting of her outside Johnnie Fox's Pub in Glencullen, County Dublin. This sighting was by a doorman of the pub who said she was with an unknown man. They left the lounge of Johnny Fox's Pub and entered the cabaret room where the unknown man paid for both of them to enter. McCarrick had invited her friend, Hilary Brady and his girlfriend, Rita Fortune to dinner at her apartment the next day. When McCarrick was not there, they contacted her parents in New York and she was reported missing. McCarrick's parents, John and Nancy McCarrick arrived in Ireland shortly after their daughter was reported missing but left after a six-month long unsuccessful search for McCarrick.[5]
  2. Eva Brennan, 39, of Rathgar, Co. Dublin, went missing on July 25, 1993. She was depressed prior to her disappearance. She disappeared after leaving a family lunch at her parents’ house in Rathgar. Brennan's father went to her apartment because she had not come to the family home for two days. He rang the door bell. He then went over to the Horse and Hound Pub which the Brennan family owned and asked a barman to come over and they broke a window to get in. The jacket she had worn on the day she was last seen was there, so Brennan must have gone back to her apartment that day. There was no initial Garda investigation known to the family for around three months. The Brennan family have criticised the Gardai on how they dealt with Brennan's disappearance. A rumour that circulated and was repeated by some Gardai suggested that Eva may have known double-killer Michael Bambrick, who was convicted of killing and burying Patricia McGauley and Mary Cummins in Clondalkin, Dublin. Brennan's sister, Colette McCann said it was extremely unlikely she would have known Bambrick and had not, to anyone's knowledge, been to Clondalkin or the south inner city where Bambrick originally came from. She said her sister visited her parents’ home everyday, had lunch there and returned to her apartment and rarely went out. The experience of the Brennan family is not dissimilar to that of the family of Marilyn Rynn, who disappeared shortly before Christmas in 1995 and was later revealed to have been murdered between December 22, 1995 and January 7, 1996 by David Lawler.
  3. Imelda Keenan, 22, of Mountmellick, Co. Laois, went missing on January 3, 1994. She was living in Waterford City, Co. Waterford. She had initially gone to stay with one of her brothers in Cobh, Co Cork, but left it after a short while when she went to stay with two other brothers in Waterford City. She was living with her boyfriend Mark Wall. They both lived in an apartment in the town on William Street. Keenan attended the Central Technical Institute in Waterford where she undertook a computer course for a short period. Keenan told Wall that she was going to the post office. Keenan left the apartment at 1:30 pm and walked down William Street onto Lombard Street. The last confirmed sighting of Keenan is at this time when she was seen crossing the road by a local doctor's secretary who knew her well. The secretary and a friend observed Keenan crossing the road at the corner of the Tower Hotel and Lombard Street. She was never seen again.[6]
  4. Josephine "JoJo" Dollard, 21, of Callan, Co. Kilkenny, went missing on November 9, 1995. She was living in Harold's Cross, Co. Dublin. She had recently dropped out of a beauty therapy course after finding it very difficult to juggle work and college. On the day she disappeared, she was planning on moving home to Callan. She had missed her bus home to Callan and had to take a bus to Naas, Co. Kildare instead. She disappeared in the Moone area of Kildare. She was hitchhiking home from Dublin to Kilkenny. She had been driven from the Dublin area to Kilcullen, Co. Kildare and then from Kilcullen to Moone. She was last seen using a payphone and through telephone records, police found out the call was made at 11:37 pm to Dollard's friend, Mary Cullinan. She ended the call as she was about to enter another car. There was also an unconfirmed sighting of her walking along the road in Castledermot, Co. Kildare. The driver of the car has never been identified.[7]
  5. Ciara Breen, 17, of Dundalk, Co. Louth, went missing on February 13, 1997. She was last seen by her mother Bernadette, who said at the time they had both gone to bed just after midnight. After 2 am, Bernadette got up to go to the toilet and discovered she was missing. She had left a window on the latch and it is believed she did so, so that she could climb back in. In 2014, two credible witnesses came forward with sightings of Ciara from the night she disappeared and in 2015, a man in his 50s was arrested but released without charge.
  6. Fiona Pender, 25, of Tullamore, Co. Offaly, went missing on August 23, 1996. She was last seen leaving her apartment by her boyfriend, John Thompson. Pender was seven months pregnant at the time of her disappearance. In 2008, a small wooden cross bearing the name "Fiona Pender" was found on The Slieve Bloom Way at the border between Laois and Offaly, which led to the belief that Fiona was buried in the Slieve Bloom Mountains.
  7. Fiona Sinnott, 19, of Rosslare, Co. Wexford, went missing on February 8, 1998. She was living in Broadway, Co. Wexford. Fiona was last seen leaving Butler's Pub in Broadway. She left the pub with her ex-boyfriend and father to her 11-month-old daughter, Sean Carroll. During his conversation with investigators, Carroll told them that he had walked Sinnott back to her house in Ballyhitt, Wexford and that he had spent the night sleeping on her couch. Sinnott, who had been complaining of pains in her arm and upper body, had gone straight to bed and that the next morning, on Monday, February 9, Carroll said that he walked into Sinnott's bedroom and saw that she was awake. According to Carroll, Sinnott had told him that she was still in pain and that she had intended on hitching a lift to her physician later that day. Because Sinnott said that she had no money, Carroll told Gardai that he had given her £3. He then left the house and took a lift from his mother, who was waiting in a car outside. Carroll and his mother then drove back to their family home, which was where Sinnott and Carroll's daughter Emma had been staying at the time. Sinnott was never seen again. During the investigation into Sinnott's disappearance, it was discovered that she did not see a doctor that day (there were no records of her having visited any of the surgeries in the vicinity). The investigation also failed to find any evidence that she had been thumbing for a lift. During a technical examination of Sinnott's house, Gardai noticed that it had been stripped bare of a number of her personal belongings. According to retired detective sergeant Alan Bailey, there was a "complete absence of clothing and other personal items indicating that a teenage girl and her eleven-month-old daughter were actually living there." Later, locals would report that they had seen a number of black refuse bags outside of the property. As news of Sinnott's disappearance continued to spread, a local farmer approached Gardai with news that he had discovered a number of black bags in the corner of one of his fields. Inside, he had found a number of items and documents that had Sinnott's name written on them. Unfortunately, the farmer had set fire to these bags as he initially thought that it was just another case of illegal dumping. It wasn't until news of Sinnott's disappearance reached him that he realised how significant they were. It was at this point that investigators began to suspect that somebody was trying to mislead them into thinking that Sinnott had run away. On September 12, 2008, a memorial plaque for Sinnott was stolen from a cemetery in Our Lady's Island in Wexford. The marble plaque, which had been cemented into the wall, was removed the night before it was due to be unveiled.
  8. Deirdre Jacob, 18, of Newbridge, Co. Kildare, went missing on July 28, 1998. She was living in Twickenham, London and studying at St Mary's University but was home for the summer. She disappeared just yards from her parents home as she walked home. This particular case is often said to be the most puzzling as Jacob was almost home. Passing motorists witnessed Jacob approaching within yards of her parents driveway as well as numerous other sightings, but she never made it to her house. No trace has ever been found and she was never seen again.

The last disappearance to be included on the list was Sinnott in 1998. Since then, no case of disappearances has been of a nature so unexplained and random as to be added to this list.[8][better source needed] A convicted rapist, Larry Murphy has been suspected of being responsible for the disappearances of Annie McCarrick, JoJo Dollard, and Deirdre Jacob, all of whom vanished close to the area where Murphy lived at the time. Eva Brennan and Fiona Pender have also been linked to the murders of Antoinette Smith and Patricia Doherty. Smith, a 27-year-old separated mother of two, went missing in July 1987. Her body was discovered the following June in a shallow grave at Kilakee, in the foothills of the Dublin mountains. Doherty, age 34, disappeared while shopping on December 23, 1991. In June 1992, her remains were found by men digging turf in the same area of the Dublin mountains. Although it is possible that a serial killer may have been involved in some of the disappearances, the suspect in Fiona Sinnott's case is a man who was well known to her.

Renewed interest in 2012[edit]

The disappearances came to an end by 2000 but in late–October 2012, there was renewed interest in the unofficial list of missing women when news broke of a 30-year-old pregnant Laois woman named Aoife Phelan who inexplicably disappeared as she walked home from a house of a friend.[9][10] Her remains were later found and a 24-year-old man who was known to her has been charged with her murder,.[11] He is too young to have been connected with the other cases, which occurred when he would have been aged five to ten.

Possible explanations and suspects[edit]

It is widely suspected that at least some if not all of the disappearances were due to a possible serial killer, acting either alone or with an accomplice, in the Leinster area in the 1990s. Irish police have often claimed that Larry Murphy (a native of Baltinglass, a village well within the triangle)[12] is the main suspect in at least some of the cases. Mr. Murphy was convicted and imprisoned in 2001 for the rape and attempted murder of a Carlow business woman in 2000. He was attempting to strangle her in a wooded area of the Wicklow Mountains at night when he was surprised by two hunters who happened upon the scene and intervened, saving the woman.[13]

Mr. Murphy has maintained that he is unconnected with the disappearances and has been questioned on the cases on numerous occasions by the police. To date there is no solid evidence connecting Mr. Murphy with the disappearances.[14] It is widely known, though, that Mr Murphy, a carpenter, had completed some work in a shop owned by Ms Jacob's grandmother.[15] Ms. Jacob's mother was interviewed on the Ray Darcy Show saying that they knew Ms Jacob's killer and that it wasn't Larry Murphy. Other commentators frequently cite that since Larry Murphy was imprisoned throughout most of the 2000s no other women disappeared until 2012. Others comment that this, however, is pure conjecture.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b ABC News. "Ireland's 'Vanishing Triangle'". ABC News.
  2. ^ PATRICK COOPER (19 July 2010). "FBI identify Irish rapist as a serial killer".
  3. ^ "Never forgotten".
  4. ^[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-08-24. Retrieved 2013-02-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Reward of €10,000 for new information on missing Imelda". Munster Express Online.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-03. Retrieved 2013-09-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Missing woman search wound down". 6 November 2012.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Man charged with murder of Aoife Phelan". 9 November 2012.
  12. ^ "Wicklow: Evil Baltinglass Rapist And Suspected Serial Killer Larry Murphy Due For Release From Prison". ARCHIVE: Citizens Free Press
  13. ^ "Murphy link as search for body begins". Independent.
  14. ^ Susan Daly. "'New leads' in disappeared women cases". The Journal.
  15. ^ "Freed rapist Murphy now in 'safe house' as he considers therapy". Herald.
  16. ^ "Rapist worked in shop owned by family of Newbridge teen who vanished". Mail Online. 14 August 2010.