Kerry Babies case

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Kerry Babies case is located in Ireland
Locations associated with the Kerry Babies case

The Kerry Babies case was a 1984 investigation by the Garda Síochána in County Kerry, Ireland, into the killing of one newborn baby and the alleged killing of another. The mother who concealed the second baby, Joanne Hayes, was arrested and charged with the murder of the first baby, of which she was erroneously thought to be the mother. The Garda were slow to realise the mistake, whereupon the charges were dropped and a tribunal of inquiry (the Kerry Babies Tribunal) was launched. Its report was critical of the Garda conduct of the investigations, and also concluded that Hayes had precipitated the death of her baby. Hayes has disputed this finding, and no charges were pressed. The parents and killer of the first baby have never been identified.


On 14 April 1984, a newborn baby boy was found stabbed to death on White Strand beach at Cahirsiveen, County Kerry.[1] A local woman, Joanne Hayes from Abbeydorney, who was known to have been pregnant, was arrested and she and her family confessed to the murder of the baby. However, they later withdrew their confessions and admitted instead that Hayes's baby had been born on the family farm, had died shortly after birth, and had been wrapped in a plastic bag and buried on the farm in secret. Tests showed that the baby whose body was found on the farm had the same blood type – A – as Hayes and its (married) father, Jeremiah Locke. However, the baby on the beach had blood group O. The Gardaí nevertheless insisted that Hayes had become pregnant simultaneously by two different men (through heteropaternal superfecundation) and had given birth to both children, killing the one found on the beach. Another theory put forward was that the baby's blood type had changed due to decomposition.[2]

Hayes was charged with murder but the charge was thrown out by a judge, and the Kerry Babies Tribunal, headed by Mr Justice Kevin Lynch, was set up to investigate the behaviour of the gardaí in the case. Judge Lynch found that Joanne Hayes killed the baby on the farm by choking it to stop it crying, in spite of state pathologist Dr John Harbison being unable to determine the cause of death.[2] The judge rejected claims by the Hayes family that they had been assaulted by gardaí, or that the confessions were obtained through coercion. Joanne Hayes had claimed that gardai slapped, threatened, and coerced her into making a false confession, and other family members had alleged that gardai used harassment and physical intimidation to get false confessions.[3] Gene Kerrigan commented in 2006, "In the opinion of some, the report never convincingly explained how people who were entirely innocent of any involvement whatever in stabbing a baby should make very detailed confessions that fitted into the facts of the baby found on the beach."[4] The case was also noteworthy for having a psychiatrist admit under oath that the definition of sociopath he had used to describe Joanne Hayes in his testimony would apply to "about half the population of the country".[5]


The case raised serious questions about the culture of the Garda Síochána, and the treatment of unmarried mothers in Irish society. Journalist Nell McCafferty's book about the case was titled A Woman to Blame. Joanne Hayes co-wrote a book with John Barrett about the episode called My Story. Four gardaí on the case took legal action against the authors and publishers of the book, as well as shops that sold it. They received out-of-court settlements totalling over €127,000.[6][7]

In the aftermath of the case the murder squad was disbanded, and the four gardaí assigned to desk duties, in what was seen as a demotion. In 2004, Joanne Hayes offered to undergo DNA testing to establish that she was not the mother of the baby on the beach. However, one of the officers on the case, Gerry O'Carroll, has also sought such tests, saying that he believes the tests will prove the superfecundation theory correct. This testing has apparently not yet been carried out.

The parents of the baby on the beach and his murderer have never been identified.


  • Tribunal of Inquiry into the "Kerry Babies" Case (October 1985). Report (PDF). Official publications. Pl.3514. Dublin: Stationery Office. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 


  1. ^ "Grim discovery one of three in seven years". Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Gene Kerrigan and Pat Brennan (1999). This Great Little Nation. Gill & Macmillan, pp. 177-178. ISBN 0-7171-2937-3.
  3. ^ Maguire, Moira J (Summer 2001). "The changing face of Catholic Ireland: Conservatism and liberalism in the Ann Lovett and Kerry Babies scandals" (PDF). Feminist Studies (College Park: University of Maryland) 27 (2): 335–358. Retrieved 15 February 2013. The day after the charges were dropped, the Hayes family lodged complaints against gardai involved in the investigation. Joanne Hayes claimed that gardai slapped, threatened, and coerced her into making a false confession in the murder of the Cahirciveen baby. Others alleged that gardai used harassment and physical intimidation to elicit confessions 
  4. ^ Kerrigan, Gene (4 June 2006). "A cruel new take on Kerry babies". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Inglis, Tom (2003). Truth, power and lies: Irish society and the case of the Kerry babies. Dublin: University College Dublin Press. p. 179. ISBN 978-1904558026. 
  6. ^ "Detective calls for DNA analysis to settle Kerry Babies case". Sunday Independent, 28 November 1999.
  7. ^ "Senior officer was linked to all tribunals into garda behaviour". Irish Examiner, 3 June 2005.