The vanishing Island

Hi all, I hope everyone is by now prepared for Christmas! Between work and college, I have been hectic and haven’t had a chance to enjoy the festive season so far. One thing I find helpful when I’m busy is to give my mind a break and delve into some interesting stories for a few minutes. So, with that in mind and taking a side-line from murders or disappearances, I want to share an interesting story with you. The actual ‘happening’ is short in itself but the mythology, science and speculation it sparks brings up a lot of fun thoughts. And who am I to say no to mysteries and science…

The vanishing Island at Ballycotton

Ballycotton is a fishing village in Co. Cork. This coastal village overlooks Ballycotton Bay and has a sandy beach which stretches out for about 25 kilometres (16 miles for those not on the metric system). Interestingly, due to severe coastal erosion, metres of land crumble away into the sea every few years and due to this, Ballycotton is actually a re-settlement of an older village which is now long underwater.

The appearance

On the 07th of July 1878 residents witnessed an unbelievable sight.

A new Island suddenly appeared just off the coast and could been seen by people who were now starting to gather along the shore. It was said that it could not have been a sea monster or whale as the view was so clear that witness claimed to be able to see a coastline, woodlands, mountains and valleys on this mysterious new island. Fishermen ventured out on their boats with aims to explore the island, but it faded into thin air upon their approach. The island has not been seen since.

Other coastal areas such as Ballyheigue Strand, Carrigaholt, and Ballyinalearne Bay have also reportedly witnessed similar anomalies, alongside areas of Scotland also.


The theory that the scientist in me can agree with is; could this island have been a ‘Fata Morgana’? A Fata Morgana is a mirage, named after sorceress Morgan le Fay, that can be seen as a narrow band situated above the horizon. In short, this phenomenon occurs because of the bending of light rays as they pass through air layers of different temperatures resulting in distorted or inverted ‘images’. These mirages have been known to change rapidly, which could explain why island disappeared for the fishermen. This could also have been due to the fishermen leaving the area of the different air temperatures for the mirage to be ‘visible’, but I’m not going to delve into the physics of it too much, I left those days behind me in college!

Another theory bouncing around is the Legendary island of Hy-Brasil. Named after the Celtic High King of the World, Breasal, many medieval maps even had it noted off the west or south coast. Sought by Brendan the Navigator, this ‘promised land’ is said to be hidden from the human eye and only becomes visible for one day every seven years. In Ireland, this island is also speculated to possibly be the famous Tír na n’Óg. In 1674, Captain John Nisbet supposedly came across a deep fog and as they passed through it came across a shoreline shrouded in mist. They decided to explore the island and saw large black magical rabbits (I suppose the cats needed a break) and a ‘wise, grizzled’ magician. The wise man gave them gold and silver and they went on their merry way. In 1872, T.J Westropp and the O’Flaherty family claimed to have witnessed the island appear and disappear and claimed to have visited the island many times before. This was 6 years before the Ballycotton appearance though. Either someone got their dates wrong or these islands were not Hy-Brasil… If you believe the mythology of course.

Hy-Brasil seen off the coast of Ireland in a map from 1325 (origin of photo unknown)

Seals, dolphins and whales can be seen in the area of Ballycotton. Seals and dolphins would be too small to appear as a large island but could a whale? Reports state that the witnesses could see landscape features of the island such as a coastline and forests, so it could not have been a whale. Could this be down to Pareidolia? Pareidolia is a phenomenon where the mind perceives a familiar pattern where none exists, such as the infamous Jesus on a slice of toast or a piece of fruit that seems to be smiling back at you. If this was a whale, or as previously explained a mirage, then possibly in the residents minds it looked like an island. Just to note, Whales are only seen in this area around December and January, whereas this event happened in July.

Could this island be a ghostly apparition of Ballycotton’s underwater predecessors? The coastal erosion could have forced many other settlements back inland long before the 1800’s. No story is complete without some mention of ghosts!

No mystery is complete without our good old friends, the aliens. Yes, as always, there is a theory that Hy-Brasil has an alien link. In 1980 in Rendlesham Forest there were reported sightings of unexplained lights and is linked with UFO landings. This happened near RAF Woodbridge which was in use by the United States Air Force at the time. Sergeant Jim Penniston reportedly encountered a strange craft which communicated a binary code to him through telepathy. Decoding the binary, it reads ‘Origin 52.0942532N 13.131269W’ which is just of the south west coast of Ireland and correlates with some of the maps which depict the location of Hy-Brasil. The theory suggests that Hy-Brasil might be a sort of ‘station’ for extra-terrestrial or time travellers. Ancient aliens did an episode on this (S06, E09) suggesting that Hy-Brasil may be an extra-terrestrial base which is using a cloaking device. This is one rabbit hole I know I will go down when I have some free time to read some more.


There are so many theories that can be passed around about this story, and we could be researching them all day, but then no work would be done would there?

So, what are your theories? Was this island just an explainable occurrence of a mirage, did our otherworldly friend’s cloaking device glitch or was it the fabled Land of the Young, Tír na n’Óg…..?

Marie Tierney

Marie Tierney was a 34-year-old loving mother of two who, alongside her husband, ran a local retail petrol station in the small town of Conahy. On October 21st 1982, Marie left her home and disappeared into the night. It wasn’t until two months later, in the run up to Christmas, that what happened her that night emerged.

Capture 2

On the night of October 21st 1982, Marie told her husband Jim that she was going out to enjoy herself and left the home she shared with her Jim and their two children, aged 13 and 12, at Clinstown, Jenkinstown at approximately 10.30pm. When she did not return, her husband reported her missing the next day.

Marie’s car, a Renault 18 with the registration number 35-HIP, was located at Newpark Fen the same day she was reported missing. Numerous searches were conducted by members of Marie’s family, friends and the local Gardai, however she could not be located. Witness statements put the car in Newpark at approximately 11pm the night of her disappearance.

Marie Tierney. Source: Garda Press Office

Two months later, on December 21st, a man taking a walk along Bleach Road, on the outskirts of Kilkenny, was trying to gain access to a field to help an injured swan when he came across what he initially thought was a mattress. Upon closer inspection in the dense undergrowth, he discovered the body of Marie Tierney and raised the alarm.

Dr. Jon Harbison, the state pathologist at the time, concluded that Marie had been violently strangled.  

The local Gardai called in the homicide squad from Dublin City to ensure an adequate investigation could ensue and an incident room was set up at Kilkenny Garda station. The Gardai determined that Marie has been killed elsewhere, possibly in a house, most likely on the day she was last seen. Her remains were then transported by a vehicle to the spot where she was later found. This was corroborated by the pathologist’s conclusion that her body had laid there for the two months.

No definite leads came from the investigation, no arrests were made and the case went cold for over 30 years.

In 2017, Kilkenny Gardai re-opened the case. People who were familiar with Marie were re-interviewed and because so much time had past some felt more able to offer information on her life around the time she was murdered. New witnesses have come forward since the re-opening of the case and a suspect has been identified. The Gardai believe that statements from witnesses may be strong circumstantial evidence in the event that a suspect be charged and tried.

Marie’s remains were exhumed at dawn on Wednesday morning of October 31st this year and her body taken to Waterford University Hospital for examination in hopes that advanced scientific developments will allow investigators to gather crucial evidence to enable the prosecution of Marie’s killer.

John Bourke said, that although it was a necessary part of the investigation it was a tough day for the family. They could only hope that it would bring a conclusion, as justice, for Marie.

To note: It is a complex application process to exhume a body in Ireland and is only allowed in the rarest of circumstances. The Gardai have to apply to the Kilkenny County Council for a licence and a Ministerial Order is required from the Department of Justice. The exhumation must be carried out with ‘due care and decency, and in such a manner as not to endanger public health’. An environmental protection officer must be present for the exhumation, alongside others such as a forensic anthropologist, state pathologist, Gardai and a forensic scientist. A special coffin lined with zinc, known as a ‘shell’, is used to transport the remains. The exhumed body must be reburied or cremated within 48 hours.

The team working on the case believe that a series of tests, which were not available in the 80’s, can now be carried out on the body may offer DNA and other forensic evidence to link the killer to her case.

Following the exhumation, a fresh appeal for any members of the public who had seen anyone walking or cycling near Newpark Fenn or who has seen the Renault 18 on the night of Oct 21st 1984 to come forward. Gardai are especially appealing for people who may not have yet made themselves known for any reason during the initial investigations to come forward.

To date, over 200 witness statements have been recorded and over 500 lines of enquiries been investigated. No arrests have been made.

Marie’s brother and sister, John Bourke and Breda Fay, have spoken of the family’s ongoing anguish that their sister’s killer has not yet been caught. They have pleaded publicly to the murdered to do the right thing and hand himself in.

Marie’s sister Breda Fay and brother-in-law Paddy Fay. Source: RTE Prime Time

Fay spoke on a Prime Time episode on Irish TV channel RTE ‘To imagine your sister, that somebody would murder her. Take her life and then, that her body was dumped in a ditch’. Marie’s Niece Deborah also told Prime Time ‘To be put in a ditch in the thick of winter. She loved her nails and appearance and always maintained herself really well. It was horrific, a horrific ending’.  The Prime Time TV show also filmed the Gardai as they re-opened the case in 2017.

Liam Connolly, the Inspector heading the investigation, continues to liaise with the Tierney and Bourke families and Chief Superintendent Dominic Hayes stated ‘It is incumbent on us that we put a huge effort into solving this murder for Marie’s family. I have no doubt that we will have a successful outcome’.

No results have been reported as of yet but no doubt all fingers are crossed for what information may be gleamed from the new forensic testing. With 2018 being a phenomenal year for forensics and DNA, the Golden State Killer’s capture comes to mind, lets hope that this good run of breakthroughs continues and finds its way to all our local cases, including Marie’s.

The Girl in the Phone Box

JoJo Dollard – The girl in the phone box


Josephine Dollard, known as JoJo to her friends and family, was a 5’5, blue eyed, black haired, 21-year-old beautician from Cuffsgrange, Co. Kilkenny. She was the youngest of five children and lost her parents at a very young age, her dad passed away before she was born and her mother when she was 12 years old. JoJo’s sister Kathleen Bergin described JoJo as a tomboy when she was growing up and although having a hard life, JoJo was a lovely polite person.

On 09th November 1995, JoJo was making her way home from Dublin to Callan, Kilkenny. JoJo had travelled to Dublin to sign off from the dole, Ireland’s unemployed benefit scheme, as she had got a job in Graingers’ restaurant in her home town, after previously leaving her beauticians job some time earlier, and was due to start work the next morning.

After missing the direct bus home from Dublin, she took a commuter bus to Naas and began hitching her way home from there. She had been driven to Kilcullen and from there to Moone.

She was last seen making a phone call to her friend, Mary Cullinane, at 11.37pm from a telephone box in the village of Moone, Co. Kildare. She rang her friend to let her know she was having difficulty getting a lift and whilst on that call a car pulled up. A short time later, a woman similar to JoJo’s description was seen leaning in the back door of a dark coloured Toyota Carina type car. The occupants of this car have never been traced.

There was also an unconfirmed sighting of JoJo walking along a road in Castledermot, Co Kildare. Gardai tried to trace a man in his 20s who was seen buying chips near this time in a diner.

It believed that she was abducted between 11.50pm and 12.05am. Gardai urged farmers in the area to search their land.

JoJo Dollard memorial Moone 15 08 2003 RollingNews
At the phone booth in Moone, Co. Kildare

In 1996, JoJo’s sister Mary Phelan and her Husband Martin hired their own private investigator. The investigator pretended to be a tourist looking for directions to gain access to the farmland of a man they believe killed JoJo. He met a man who had a scar on his face which hadn’t healed well due to lack of medical attention. The investigator added that he was after solving 13 murders but ‘Jojo’s I’ll never solve.. I’ll have to bring that one to my grave with me’.

Two female Gardai who were sent to Mary’s house to visit them did not even have it in their files that the chief suspect had a scar. JoJo’s family claim the killer is related to a politician and that this influence has protected him as the Gardai ‘know who it is, but they’re not going to do anything about it now’ and that a senior officer told them that ‘the investigation will go nowhere’.

Shortly after her disappearance, a woman wrote a letter to the family stating that she was an ex-girlfriend of the suspected killer and that he has abused her during their relationship. Her sister Mary brought the letter straight to Baltinglass Garda station which she later regretted as she later stated that ‘I know now they were never going to act on that letter’. She unfortunately did not get a photocopy of the letter before handing it over. JoJo’s sister Mary said that the investigation was a ‘complete mess’. There is also claims that there was a smear campaign ran to destroy her character which resulted in the public and some politicians defender her honour.

Kathleen has campaigned tirelessly for JoJo’s whereabouts and herself and her family worked to get a national monument erected in the grounds of Kilkenny Castle in remembrance of all the missing people. Kathleen stated that the family ‘cling on to hope for JoJo. We want her to be found before all of us pass away’. Unfortunately, Mary died on the morning of 20th April this year, 2018, after being diagnosed with cancer 17 weeks previous.

Despite an extensive investigation by both the Gardai and her family, JoJo has never been found. Although we may never know what happened to JoJo, someone out there does.

Anyone with information should contact the Gardai at 1-800-666-111.


*Please note, in many sources the surname Dollard and Dullard have been used interchangeably.

Jastine Valdez



Jastine Valdez moved to Ireland from the Philippines three years ago to join her parents Danilo and Teresita Valdez who had come here in the 1990s for work. She studied accounting and finance at Tallaght Institute of Technology in Dublin and worked part-time as a carer and waitress. The family lived in a cottage on the grounds of Charleville House where Danilo is a greensman and Teresita is the housekeeper. Charleville House is situated on the R760, one of the main roads leading into Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow.

On Saturday morning of May 19th, 2018, 24-year-old Jastine set off from her home to travel to Bray. At 5.40pm, Jastine boarded the 185 bus and set off home from Bray town. Shortly before 6.15pm, close to the entrance to the Powerscourt Estate, Jastine got off the bus to start her walk home.

A woman who was driving by saw a man forcibly bundle Jastine into the boot of a Nissan SUV. At 6.24pm she dialled 999. A second witness saw a distressed woman in the back the SUV and when he returned home around 7.20pm called the Gardaí. Later another witness came forward stating that at 6.50pm he saw the SUV driving erratically around six kilometres from Enniskerry. Three patrol cars and a helicopter were dispatched. By 3am that night, the Gardaí had identified a man called Mark Hennessy as their prime suspect.

On the Saturday of Jastine’s murder, Hennessy joined a group to watch the first half of the FA Cup Final in the Ramblers Rest pub in Ballybrack. He was reported as acting normal and didn’t seem drunk, with one of the patrons stating that he didn’t even buy a drink. At 5.43pm he drove from the parking lot and within half an hour he was driving behind the 185 bus that was carrying Jastine Valdez. It is reported that after the murder, Hennessy returned to a pub to drink for the evening.

At 8pm Sunday evening the Gardaí found Hennessy who was sitting in his car in Cherrywood Business Park. Out of concern for the suspects actions, the Gardaí fired a shot at Hennessy but the bullet however, ricocheted off his shoulder fatally wounding him. Shortly before the shots were fired, Hennessy rang his wife from a ‘burner phone’ to say that he had done something terrible. Inside the car they found Hennessy covered in blood from self-inflicted injuries and a note which had the words ‘sorry’ and ‘Puck’s Lane’ written on it. Puck’s lane was the road on which Hennessy was seen driving erratically around 6.50pm Saturday evening. This note led to the discovery of Jastine’s body at Puck’s Castle in Rathmichael, Dublin.

Mark Hennessy came from a large, respected family and was married with two young daughters. Friends of Hennessy described him as a happy-go-lucky guy who never caused trouble and would never complain about anything. Hennessy however did have convictions for public order and drug offences and was facing an upcoming drink-driving charge. No evidence was found to imply that he knew Jastine, but Gardaí did not rule out the possibility that he had stalked her or had seen her before. Hennessy’s DNA was run through a database to search for possible matches taken from other crime scenes.

Unfortunately, these sad and harrowing events have left many victims. Jastine, who will never reach her full potential, Jastine’s family who will never see their loved and cherished daughter grow up, and Hennessy’s wife and children who have had their world turned around and lost a husband and father.

While we may never know what compelled Mark Hennessy to commit this crime, we must remember that we do not know what is going on in someone’s mind or behind closed doors. We must remain vigilant that someone’s behaviour change may be a subconscious cry for help and that this person may need support or help before they endanger themselves or someone else.

The Face of Evil

Did you ever read a book that aggravated you so much you had to stop yourself from swearing out loud on public transport? If not, then you need to read this book. The aggravating factor was not the book of course but the subject matter. A vile, despicable specimen of a human being called Robert Black.

Robert Black may be best known for his convictions of kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of four innocent young children between 1981 and 1986 but ‘The face of Evil’ delves into the deplorable lifestyle and urges that this man acted out on and the possibility, if not likelihood, that there were more than just the four known victims. There are women, who are lucky to have gotten away, who can attest to that.

Robert Black’s life consisted of travelling around parts of Britain for work which gave him ample opportunity to seek out innocent victims and private areas to take them to. The use of different vans and the fact that he was not local to these areas gave him a disguise that enabled him to act out his fantasies undetected for years.

The bodies of his victims showed how unmerciful his sexual fantasies were and how sadistic and unrepentant this killer was. The youngest of his known victims was just 5 years old when she was kidnapped and murdered by Black with the eldest being 11. But for such a sadistic killer, surely his killing spree did not end after 5 years of a murder spree, nor could it have only started the five years previous. In ‘The face of Evil’ Black’s life is broken down and his whereabouts laid out for the readers to digest and conclude that Black had the means to have been engaging his fantasies for a much longer period of time.

I went into this book with not much knowledge at all of Robert Black and the crimes he was either convicted or suspected of. The authors laid out all the facts, sometimes even repeating them to iterate the sheer audacity of his actions, and interestingly provided a comprehensive timeline review including their own take on cases he could have been involved with. I was very impressed at the addition of survivor’s accounts who truly believe that Black was their would-be abductor and grateful that the research into these crimes has helped others come forward. You can sense the author’s knowledge and passion while still being a readable book for those who don’t have experience in this area.

It is easy to see that the authors Robert Giles and Chris Clark have extensive knowledge and experience in not only this subject but in crime in general, being from a criminology background and a former police intelligence officer respectively, and I look forward to catching up on their other titles!

The Face of Evil

Precarious – The Blog!

Hi all, welcome to my blog!

As a kid I was an avid reader and spent a lot of time reading crime magazines and books that my parents had finished with. This interest stayed with me to this day, luckily with more options as time went on such as social media and podcasts! So many topics fascinate me; disappearances, serial killers, crimes of passion, mysteries, disasters and more. I always have a book with me and have books literally stacked up all around my house (because you know, we’ll read them again won’t we?).

One thing I have found is the similar cases or stories, usually from the same countries or locales, doing the rounds online. Don’t get me wrong, I will listen to any podcast on Ted Bundy or read any speculations online about the disappearance of Brandon Lawson but there are so many more stories, some closer to home than we think that we may not even know of! From reading up on local cases, keeping track on the news or discussing with others, I have learned of so many interesting stories that I would love to hear my favourite podcasters cover or read a book which delves into as much information as can be found. Chatting over a coffee about these stories is great, but that’s not going to get these stories out there now is it?

So, this is where I will try and share some stories with you which really impacted or stuck with me. And if there is one thing I’m good at, it’s talking! I plan to share updates on books I’m reading, items in the news, documentaries and such on this blog. I also would like to share these stories with everyone through a podcast, which I hope to get out to everyone soon if my voice doesn’t break the system..

So please join me in the discovery and storytelling of these criminal, mysterious and precarious stories!