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.
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.
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.
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.