For the past five years, a team of detectives drawn from the Kerry garda division and from the Serious Crime Review Team based in Dublin have been conducting a cold case review of the discovery, on 14 April 1984, of the body of a five-day old baby boy on a south Kerry beach.

The baby, subsequently named John, had been stabbed multiple times.

Baby John's body was found lifeless in a bag at White Strand in Cahersiveen. The discovery gave rise to what has become known as the Kerry Babies case.

Save for an apology to Joanne Hayes, who was wrongly charged in 1984 with the murder of Baby John, and a public appeal for information about his death, the cold case review has largely been conducted away from the public gaze.

As the 39th anniversary of the discovery of the body of Baby John approaches, his parents have never been identified and his murder remains unsolved.

Whether that will still be the case after the latest developments remains to be seen.

In January 2018, when gardaí announced their cold case review of the investigation of the murder of Baby John, they emphasised that they believed the answers to solving the mystery were to be found in Cahersiveen and the close surrounding area.


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Baby John's grave in Cahersiveen

They re-emphasised this point again last night, in a statement announcing the arrests of a man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s.

It is understood that this remains the position of the investigating team: that knowledge of what happened is locally held.

It is worth noting, also, that the lead investigator, Superintendent Flor Murphy, described last night's arrests as a significant development in the investigation.

From the initiation of the cold case review five years ago, it has been clear that advances in forensic science would have a key role.

At the announcement of the cold case review, gardaí revealed that a full DNA profile for Baby John had been generated from samples preserved during the initial post-mortem examination.

Later that year, in September 2018, RTÉ News revealed that DNA samples had been taken from a small number of people in the south Kerry area, as part of the garda cold case review.

The samples were taken voluntarily, at the request of investigating gardaí. Most of those who gave samples were women.

White Stand beach in Cahersiveen where baby John was found

DNA sampling was continuing and remained a key focus of the cold case review, gardaí said at the time.

In September 2021, gardaí also exhumed the remains of Baby John from the plot where he was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Cahersiveen and brought them to the morgue at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee for further examination.

The remains were reinterred at the Holy Cross Cemetery later that afternoon.

In addition, gardaí conducted door-to-door inquiries on Valentia Island as part of their investigation.

Since then, there has been very little public update on the progress of the cold case review.

Last night, we learned that, in addition to thousands of hours of investigation, hundreds of people have been interviewed and more than 500 lines of inquiry have been followed.

Gardaí are not saying where the two people now being questioned were arrested. Nor are they saying if they were arrested together or separately.

Both have been detained under section four of the Criminal Justice Act, which allows them to be questioned for up to 24 hours, excluding rest periods.

At the expiration of that time each will have to be charged or released. Both are being questioned at garda stations in Co Kerry.

It may take some time before we can fully assess the role advances in forensic science played in this cold case review.

And it may be some time too before the strength of the garda contention that these arrests are indeed significant developments in the investigation can also be tested.