Northern Ireland news

Documentary puts Mary Boyle mystery in spotlight again

Co Donegal schoolgirl Mary Boyle who disappeared without trace in March 1977
Connla Young

FOR almost 40 years the disappearance of Co Donegal schoolgirl Mary Boyle has remained shrouded in mystery.

The six-year-old vanished from her grandparents' home near Ballyshannon in Co Donegal in March 1977.

She is believed to have been murdered and her body buried in bogland near the Co Fermanagh border.

Shocking allegations about the case are included in a new documentary by investigative journalist Gemma O'Doherty which has already been viewed 50,000 times on You Tube.

The film claims that political pressure was put on gardaí not to question relatives of the chief suspect following the child's disappearance.

The suspect, who was known to Mary and her family, continues to live in Co Donegal and has never been arrested.

An inquest into the suspected death has never been held.

The Irish News understands the PSNI was recently asked to investigate claims that someone living in Co Fermanagh may have information which could help catch the child's killer.

As one of the longest-running missing person cases in the Republic, it continues to be a source of controversy almost 40 years after Mary vanished.

She was last seen by her uncle Gerry Gallagher while visiting her grandparents' home at Cashelard, near Ballyshannon.

Her identical twin sister Ann Doherty believes her killer was a sexual abuser who wanted to cover up his activities.

“Mary had a secret and because Mary was feisty, Mary would have told,” she said.

“Mary had to be killed to stop her from telling.

“I believe that Mary was sexually assaulted.

“That was the secret.”

Scottish serial killer Robert Black, who died earlier this year, had previously been linked to Mary's disappearance.

Black was convicted in 2011 for the murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy near Lisburn in Co Antrim in 1981.

However, links between Black and Mary's disappearance have now been dismissed.

Another man, Brian McMahon, who was jailed for two years in 2013 for a string of sex offences carried out in Co Donegal, was arrested in 2014 in relation to the case.

He has said he had nothing to do with Mary's disappearance.

During the film retired Garda sergeant Martin Collins, who investigated the case, revealed that officers in Ballyshannon were contacted by a political figure.

“The gist of the conversation was that none of a particular family should be made suspects for Mary's disappearance.”

Retired Garda detective sergeant Aidan Murray believes he came close to forcing the chief suspect to admit the murder during an interview but claims he was urged to hold back by a senior officer.

Mr Murray said the political pressure hampered the investigation.

“The sting went out of the whole investigation after that.”

Veteran Donegal Fianna Fail TD Pat ‘The Cope' Gallagher yesterday said he was not the political figure, saying he worked in the fishing industry at the time.

“I am not the person if that answers the question and I wasn't in politics at the time,” he said.

“Of course those who might suggest that, those are people who are just being mischievous.

“I wasn't even in the council at the time, I wasn't even thinking of taking up a role in public life.

“I do believe it should be brought to a conclusion and it's a matter for the authorities to pursue this,” he told Highland Radio.

The campaign to find out what happened to Mary has received support from former country music star Margo O'Donnell.

A sister of Daniel O'Donnell, the Donegal woman was a distant relation of her father and knew the schoolgirl.

“I do believe that there was a senior officer that sorta had to play ball,” she said.

“Was it blackmail? I don't know.

“I have heard an awful lot of things that make my skin crawl and makes me realise we have absolutely no justice system in this country.”

Gemma O'Doherty said anyone who has helped protect the killer should be held to account.

“Anyone who has shielded this man, be it a Garda or politician, they all need to be brought to justice at this stage but this is Ireland so it won't happen,” she said.

Ann Doherty's solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Belfast-based KRW Law, said an inquest should now be held.

“We intend on issuing legal action in the coming weeks to ensure that an inquest is held, and held promptly in light of the new evidence,” he said.

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