The key to solving the 43-year-old mystery of Ireland’s longest missing person could lie in Birmingham.
Mary Boyle and her twin sister Ann were born in Sparkhill, Birmingham before the family moved back to Donegal with parents Ann and Charlie where Mary vanished on 18 March 1977. She was six years old when she disappeared from near her grandparents’ home in Cashelard, Ballyshannon.
Margo O’Donnell, country singer and a distant cousin of Mary, appealed through The Irish World for anyone with any information to come forward. Mary’s uncle Gerry Gallagher and his wife also lived in Birmingham at the time.
Margo told The Irish World: “Somebody knows something and probably a lot of people know.
“There must be some people over there who knew of these two families. Gerry, Ann’s brother, was living very close to Ann and Charlie. I think they lived next door to one another. Maybe there’s some answers over there. There’s certainly no answers here. I can’t get answers from the guards.
“Nobody in the area of Cashelard is willing to speak. It’s as if they’re afraid to speak.”
It has been alleged that a politician intervened in the case to insist the prime suspect was not arrested.
“I know that phone call was made. I know that for a fact. If that call hadn’t been made, as one of the guards that was working the case at the time said to me five or six years ago, we could be talking a very different talk now.
“Definitely that call was made, that certain people weren’t to be questioned, weren’t to be harassed, weren’t to be brought down.
“I don’t understand the politics of it all but you get tired of it after 40 odd years and you get very tired when you seem to be fighting the very people who should want to find Mary’s body.
“I talk to her twin Ann every week and the agony and pain that she has from the loss of her sister is unbelievable.”
Margo was about to go onstage at the Galtymore in Cricklewood when she heard the news of Mary’s disappearance. She returned home to help with the search.
“I had never been to that place before in my life but when I saw where it was and the surroundings of it, I just knew Mary had not been picked up. Things just didn’t seem to fit.
“At the end of the day this is about a little, innocent girl. If somebody out there knows something, the smallest thing could put an end to this misery. This is about a little girl who has been missing for more than 40 years and people do know where she is.”
There have been many theories about what happened to Mary such as she was taken by child killer Robert Black who could have been in Ireland at the time.
Some family members believe someone she knew was responsible.
“What cuts me more than anything is that her mother on numerous occasions told me who was responsible for Mary’s disappearance and today she will deny saying that.”
Joseph Craig, a cousin of Mary and part of the Justice for Mary Boyle campaign, told The Irish World: “No one is looking for justice for Mary. There’s been radio silence basically.
“We did a podcast with the BBC recently and the Gardaí refused to speak to the BBC.
“We don’t blame the Gardaí of the time, they weren’t trained for it. What one of the main guards told us was, ‘Our training consisted of marching around the field at Templemore’.
“There was genuine mistakes made. The top guard in the area at the time was under the influence of a politician. We can’t prove that.”
While Madeleine McCann has remained in the headlines and there were reports of a breakthrough after 13 years just last week, the case of Mary Boyle is nowhere near as well known.
“I’d say in my experience half of the people say, ‘That story really affected me. Poor little girl’. The other half won’t know who she is.
“I’ve seen the statements that were made that day. If the people who made those statements were brought into a coroner’s inquest and those statements were read out, it would be seen that they don’t match up. I don’t think the coroner would have any choice but to make it a criminal case. That’s my opinion. If there’s nothing to worry about, why don’t they bring the coroner’s inquiry?”
The man they believe to be responsible has never been arrested and still lives in Donegal. Joe also says the Gardaí have destroyed potential evidence.
“The Sunday World did an investigation and they found a farmer who said he had seen a shallow grave. Shallow graves would be common enough in the farming community with cattle but he said he was sure he had seen hair. He said he had spoken to the Gardaí. It wasn’t on Garda record.
“The Sunday World brought a scanning company to scan the field. They found anomalies which could be anything but they found anomalies. They were getting ready for a private forensic dig when two guards arrived unannounced, one in a JCB-type digger. They ripped up the whole field.
“If you’re looking for a six-year-old’s body which at that point would have been 35 years missing it’s like an archaeological dig. You’re looking for bone fragments.
“If there was anything in that field, they destroyed it.”
In 2017 Ralph Vance and Liam McGuinness told The Sunday World they found a cardigan when searching fields for Mary but that the Gardaí had never spoken to them about it.
“There was a development a couple of years ago. Somebody contacted us to say he and his friend found a cardigan on the search. They were told: If you found anything, stand still and shout for a guard. That’s what they did. The guard came over and took away what they say was a purple cardigan. There’s no record of it.
“I put it up on the Justice for Mary Boyle Facebook page, ‘Ralph Vance has not been interviewed by the Irish police about his claim he found a cardigan in 1977 the day after Mary went missing’. Within a week the guards arrived at his door in Essex. The two of them had absolutely no reason to make up that story.”
Anyone with any information can email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Justice for Mary Boyle Facebook page.