“Son of Kerry, Son of Sam,” airing on TG4 on May 15, tells the riveting tale of Kerry-born detective Tim Dowd who lead the biggest serial-killer manhunt the city of New York has ever seen.
The summer of 1977 in New York City was one that few who lived through it will ever forget. Full of fear, a serial killer lurked in the shadows, not only evading police arrest but evading police completely as he continued on a killing spree that would eventually result in eight deadly attacks.
And at the helm of the Omega taskforce on the persistent tail of this “Son of Sam” killer? A Co. Kerry immigrant named Timothy J. Dowd who had risen through the ranks of the police force to become the NYPD Deputy Inspector charged with the largest manhunt New York had ever seen.
While the “Son of Sam” killer and his gruesome reign of terror - targeting young couples in parked cars throughout the Bronx and Queens - would go on to become one of the most high-profile cases in New York history, the man who eventually brought him to justice, through grit and determination, has largely been forgotten.
A new TG4 documentary presented by RTÉ journalist Seán Mac an tSíthigh and directed by Neal Boyle, however, will look back at the rise of this Kerryman to the Omega taskforce from his beginnings in Ross, Co. Kerry. Traveling to Dowd’s homeplace with the detective's cousins, Mac an tSíthigh also journeys to New York to speak with some of the detectives working on the 1970s case, as well as one of the survivors of a “Son of Sam” attack.
“It was a privilege to meet so many directly involved in the case,” said Mac an tSíthigh.
“I was astounded by the detailed and vivid recollections of the detectives I interviewed. Obviously, the notoriety of Son of Sam and the media attention the case received meant it was a case like no other, but in our conversations, many of these hard men admitted this one affected them deeply.”
“Son of Kerry, Son of Sam” also delves into the intense media pressure felt by Dowd as the killer sent manic letters to his second-in-command Joseph Borelli and Daily News journalist Jimmy Breslin.
The chances of eventually catching him seemed never to change in their favor. Attacking from the shadows at night, the “Son of Sam” left little evidence as to his identity and only sketchy witness statements.
“As a fellow Kerryman, I was naturally drawn to this remarkable story about one of our own,” continues Mac an tSíthigh.
“There’s an element of pride when you realize one of the most notorious serial killer cases in American history was cracked by a man from Keel. What strikes me about Tim Dowd is his loyalty to a deep sense of duty, rather than any personal self-interest. That’s a very noble quality which is rare nowadays in such high-profile positions"
“Son of Kerry, Son of Sam” airs Wednesday, May 16, at 9.30pm (Irish time) on TG4. Those in the US wishing to watch can do so for free via the TG4 player here. The show can be watched live and will remain on the player for a further 30 days.