Alan Bailey served thirteen years as National Coordinator for the specialist Garda taskforce Operation TRACE alongside his role as Detective Sergeant in charge of the Garda Serious Crime Review Team. A trained CSI examiner, with a diploma in Criminology, Alan is now retired and works as Human Resource Manager at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin. A deeply compelling read, you can find out more about Missing, Presumed by clicking here.
What was the hardest part of the investigations you helped conduct in your time with TRACE?
Without a doubt, dealing with families and other secondary victims.
There were two seperate levels here.
The primary one was of course, the ongoing grief that they were all suffering, not knowing either the fate or the whereabouts of their missing loved ones. This ’not knowing’ only added to their pain.
There was also a further problem in relation to the perception some of the families had about the Garda activity, or lack thereof, in the search for their missing daughter. These cases all preceded the introduction within the GardaÍ of the role of the family liaison officer. Families complained of being kept in the dark, of having no contact person to liaise with, of first hearing of developments or arrests from the media as opposed to the GardaÍ.
From an investigative perspective there were two major drawbacks. Investigations in a large number of serious cases are often based upon the evidence gathered either from the injuries inflicted on the victim or from the crime scene behaviour or activity. In these cases we had neither science available to us for examination and comparison.
Do you maintain contact with any family members you worked with?
Certainly. At the outset each member of our task force was appointed to liaise with one particular family. Since my retirement in 2011 I have stayed in touch on a personal basis with two of the families. In addition I am in regular contact with the new members of Operation TRACE who contact me with any queries that arise.
Do any of the cases feel more personal to you than others?
I would have to answer that by saying that while, in many ways, no two cases are the same, given the pain, worry, and frustration felt by each of their parents or loved ones it was impossible to be more influenced by one than the other.
Most of the cases you detailed stop short, unsolved. Were there any, not in the book, that ended in arrests or convictions?
Initially it was intended that our role would be confined to the examination of the six cases together for the purpose of establishing if one person, as in a serial killer or similar deviant, was responsible for the disappearances of all six females. On completion of our examination we were satisfied that in at least five of the cases, (without specifying which case is which), we had identified five separate, viable suspects. Various alibi evidence proffered on their behalf, together with the absence of the evidence I have mentioned above, has however, made it difficult to bring these cases to trial.
Are you still hopeful that these cases will be brought to justice?
Certainly. Recent developments in the case of Fiona Pender prove this. The chief suspect in this case relied heavily on certain alibi evidence that we had been unable to shake. Cold case review has taught us, however, that relationships, including those grounded on fear, can change with the passing of years. A classic example of this is the recent conviction of Dermot Griffin for the manslaughter of 12 year old Stephen Hughes in 2001.
Perhaps this development with Fiona will convince those other persons who through false hoods or foolishness are letting certain persons get away with murder that they should now come forward.
How did you find the writing process of this book?
The greatest fear expressed by the families of the missing girls was that their cases would be forgotten. One of the greatest truisms of police work is that today’s outrage very quickly becomes tomorrow’s statistic. It is in no small part due to the dedication and commitment of the families that these cases are still active and ongoing investigations. I sincerely hope that my book will help to continue to highlight the cases of the missing and, hopefully, in some small way, contribute to a successful outcome to the investigations
Missing, Presumed is now available to buy in all good bookshops and directly from our site here.