Northern Ireland news

Donegal search for missing doctor ends without success

The search for Dr Deirdre O'Flaherty's body centred on a wind farm at Oughterlin near Rathmullan in County Donegal. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

A five-day search for the body of missing Strabane-based doctor, Deirdre O'Flaherty has ended without success.

Gardai in County Donegal completed the search yesterday, ten years to the day since the mother-of-three was reported missing presumed drowned.

Dr O'Flaherty (46) was last seen alive at a family holiday home near Kinnego Bay in Inishowen and close to her husband, Ken's hometown of Moville. The alarm was raised on the morning of January 11 2009 when her silver BMX SUV was found at Kinnego Bay with the keys still in the ignition, her sandals in the footwell and her medical bag still in the car.

Originally from west Belfast, Dr O'Flaherty lived in Strabane where her husband, also a doctor, worked as a GP. Despite a huge air, land and sea search in the days after she vanished, no trace of missing woman has ever been found.

In 2012, Belfast High Court declared the mother-of-three dead. In a ruling on an application by her husband, Mr Justice Deeny declared under the Presumption of Death Act 2009 that Dr O'Flaherty was dead.

The court was told the missing woman had left her wedding and engagement rings at the holiday home along with her mobile phone and that she suffered from depression. Her husband also found three cards she left for her children with the message “I will always love you xx Mum.”

Mr Justice Deeny said: “I find that she died on 11 January 2009 between 9am and 11am having entered the sea at Kinnego Bay, County Donegal and subsequently drowned.”

On Tuesday of this week, Gardai revealed that they had commenced a five-day excavation of land near Rathmullan in a fresh search for the missing doctor. It was subsequently learned that they were acting on information contained in a letter sent to Garda headquarters claiming to give the exact location of her body.

The search took place on an isolated hill near Rathmullan, approximately 50 miles from Kinnego Bay where Dr O'Flaherty was presumed to have drowned. Officers from the Garda Technical Bureau focused much of the search on a wind farm at Oughterlin, around two miles from Rathmullan.

However, a spokesman confirmed yesterday, that the excavation had ended without success.

He said: “Unfortunately nothing that furthers the search for Deirdre was located during the search. The site is on private property and remains closed to the public.”

He also acknowledged that yesterday was the tenth anniversary of Dr O'Flaherty's disappearance and renewed her family's request for privacy.

The spokesman urged anyone with information about Dr O'Flaherty's disappearance to contact Gardai at Buncrana on 00 353 74 9320540.

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