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Mill Falls, Collooney, County Sligo

No cover-up evident in 40-year-old murder of child, says police

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Mill Falls, Collooney, County Sligo

A police review of an investigation into the sensational murder of a child in Ireland 40 years ago has found no evidence of a cover-up, according to the Irish Independent.

Bernadette Connolly was 10 years old when she was killed and dumped in a bog in Collooney, Co Sligo in 1970. The murder is still unsolved.

Concerns that the investigation had been tampered with because one of the suspects was a now-deceased priest prompted the review.

The review concluded that there was no evidence that the investigation was “impeded or inhibited in any way.”

At around 4pm on April 17, 1970, Bernadette left on her bike to collect groceries from a neighbor's house less than two miles away, but she never arrived. Her bicycle was found abandoned in a ditch two miles from her home. Almost four months later, her partially clothed body was found in a bog 15 miles away. Sexual assault was suspected.

On the evening of her disappearance, a green Ford Escort van owned by the Passionist monastery was seen driving in the area. No one in the monastery could account for the vehicle's movements, even though all gave statements and their fingerprints to police.

A priest attached to the monastery, who moved in with the family evidently to console them after Bernadette's disappearance, was transferred to Africa before her body was found.

After the publication of the Murphy Report last year, Bernadette’s case came into the spotlight again. The late Gerry Ryan interviewed the Connolly family which  also revived public interest in the cast.

Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter alleged that the original case file was shown to a senior member of the Catholic Church and that the girl’s murder had not been comprehensively investigated.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern disclosed the findings in response to a parliamentary question by Shatter.

Said Ahern, "This review has been completed and the review team has found no evidence to support the view that the original investigation was inhibited or impeded in any way.

"A comprehensive meeting was held with members of the person's family in September, 2010, during which their concerns surrounding the investigation were addressed."

Bernadette's sisters, Kerrie, Patricia and Ann, revealed in earlier interviews of how their parents, Gerry and Maureen, never recovered from the tragedy and died not knowing who had murdered their child.

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