Northern Ireland

Deirdre O'Flaherty search was 'unexpected', family says

Deirdre O'Flaherty
Image caption Deirdre O'Flaherty was also known by her maiden name of Deirdre Donnelly

The family of a doctor missing for 10 years has said a recent search was "entirely unexpected" and have raised questions about the investigation.

Deirdre O'Flaherty, a GP based in Strabane, has not been seen since January 2009 when her car was found at Kinnagoe beach.

A search in County Donegal last week ended with nothing.

Relatives said they now want a meeting with the gardaí (Irish police). Gardaí declined to comment.

Dr O'Flaherty, 46, was also known by her maiden name of Deirdre Donnelly.

'Conduct, conclusions and consequences'

Relatives were told by officers that the search was based on a note handed to gardaí in Monaghan in August 2017, a statement issued by the Donnelly and O'Flaherty families said.

"Accordingly, the families have requested a meeting with the garda investigation team to discuss a number of questions relating to the conduct, conclusions and consequences of this investigation," the families said in a statement, issued on Sunday.

On Friday, gardaí said nothing had been found to further the investigation following the search in the Milford area of County Donegal.

The families said they wanted to express their "heartfelt gratitude for the many kind and thoughtful messages of support".

The said it had "been a tumultuous and distressing week leading up to the 10th anniversary of Deirdre's disappearance".

"The families are relieved only because this ordeal is over although in our view, the outcome was not in doubt," the statement read.

"Notification that gardaí were going to carry out a land search for Deirdre was entirely unexpected, not least given that the finding by Order of Judge Deeney at Belfast High Court on the 12 January 2012 that Deirdre had 'gone into the water and drowned' was supported by the oral evidence of the investigating garda sergeant.

"As far as the families are aware there has not in fact been any ongoing search for Deirdre since at least that time."

Image caption The searches last week took place on land between Rathmullan and Kerrykeel

In 2012, three years after her disappearance, a High Court in Belfast ruled that Dr O'Flaherty had died.

"The families had only three days advance notice of the gardaí excavations near Milford, County Donegal and therefore had little time to prepare for the consequences of the very public, national exposure of this story during the week," the family statement continued.

"Gardaí confirmed to the families at that time that the decision to conduct the excavation in a remote area over fifty miles from her last known whereabouts flowed from an anonymous note handed in to a Garda station in County Monaghan in August 2017.

"This note apparently provided precise map co-ordinates for the location of Deirdre's remains. The families have not seen this note and this information was not made public due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána (Irish police) said they won't be commenting on an ongoing investigation.

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