In Britain the little girl, just six when she disappeared, failed to generate press interest many decades ago.
Yet Mary, red-haired and with a sunshine smile, was from Birmingham.
today her twin sister, backed by leading Irish investigative reporter
Gemma O’Doherty, appeals for help in a bid to find the answers she
said: “I really hope the people of Birmingham and Britain will support
our fight for justice for her so that her remains can finally be laid to
rest in a decent grave and her killer and all those who have shielded
him are brought to justice.”
Mary, born in Esme Road, Sparkhill, disappeared from her grandparents’ home outside Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, on March 18, 1977.
is Ireland’s longest-running missing child case and reporter O’Doherty
believes the Garda investigation was weighed-down and stalled by
She has campaigned long and loud for answers – and hopes someone in Birmingham holds the key to unlocking the baffling crime.
To that end, she has made a documentary, Mary Boyle: The untold story, which has garnered more than 150,000 views on YouTube.
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has also orchestrated a meeting between Ann Doherty and Micheal Martin,
head of one of Ireland’s main political parties, Fianna Fail. They
presented evidence backing their belief a politician attempted to
intervene in the then fledgling case.
whose battle for justice has taken her to seats of power Stormont,
Westminster and Brussels, maintains she knows who killed her sister –
and the man is still alive. She alleges the Garda were “warned off” from
further questioning a suspect. And she snapped: “We have no faith in
the Garda. You wonder what you have to do to get justice in this
Mary was born to Charlie, a road worker and bus conductor, and Ann in Sparkhill, she was one of three children.
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she was two, the family moved to Ireland where Charlie had gained
employment as a commercial fisherman. He died in 2005, destroyed by the
case, but Ann is still alive, residing in a bungalow on the Donegal
Mary was last seen on the afternoon after St Patrick’s Day, 1977, when she visited her grandparents’ remote cottage.
kissed and hugged her mother, then went outside to play with identical
twin Ann, brother Paddy and two cousins while dinner was being prepared.
Uncle Gerry Gallagher, who had been working on the roof, crossed bleak
bogland to return the ladders he’d borrowed from a neighbour.
Mary, full of mischievous fun, followed him.
around 3.45pm, he told her to turn back. It was the last time Mary, her
small hands in a bag of crisps, was seen. She was only five minutes
from her grandparents’ farmhouse.
an interview with the Irish News, Ann recalled the terrible moment she
realised Mary was missing. She said: “I looked out the front door. The
rest of the children were playing in a thicket in the front garden, Mary
was not there.
minutes later I asked if anyone had seen Mary. I remember in desperation
asking my mother to light a candle. I shook holy water all over the
place. I felt so panicky and I remember I ran out to the rocks shouting
“I hoped and prayed that
God would protect her. When Gerry came back to the house he said she had
followed him earlier to the Cawleys’ (neighbours’) house and that she
turned back. I got into the car and drove along the road in different
directions. It was a nightmare.”
was initially feared Mary had been swallowed by the wild marshland. An
entire lake behind the cottage was drained in the search for a body and
the soft earth gouged out by mechanical diggers.
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case has spawned a myriad of theories. One has gathered momentum over
the years: Mary was slain by Robert Black, the convicted child killer
who died in prison this year.
driver Black, who kidnapped and murdered four girls from 1981 and 1986,
was known to have travelled to Donegal at roughly the time of Mary’s
disappearance. He was certainly staying there in 1978.
believe Mary was swallowed by the bog, but the crisp packet she was
clutching remains a puzzle. Ann believes it would’ve stuck to the
cloying mud and still be on the surface.
Ann, quiet and uncomfortable under the media spotlight, has no doubt her twin was murdered.
told The Mercury: “We had very strong connections with Birmingham. Mary
and I were born there. Our early days were spent there and Mary lived a
third of her life there. I am appealing to anyone who might remember
anything to come forward in the strictest of confidence if they have any
“Mary is Ireland’s Madeleine McCann.”
is being backed by Margo O’Donnell, sister of popular Irish singer
Daniel and a distant cousin to Mary. She said: “We are reaching out to
the people of Birmingham where Mary was born. We are asking for their
help. Anything they can tell us will be treated in confidence. We
believe that things happened in Birmingham that could be crucial to
solving the murder.
have very fond memories of Birmingham. I played in the ballrooms and
clubs there many times and I know the Irish community there would like
to see Mary’s murder solved.”
thing is for sure. Reporter Gemma O’Doherty will never let the case be
forgotten. And her tenacity has reaped rewards. She wants a full probe
into the Garda’s handling of the case and, importantly, an inquest into
She is, at
last, being heard. Recently, Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan stood in the
European Parliament and announced: “Mary Boyle has been failed by the
statement issued last year, The Garda stated: “The disappearance of Mary
Boyle, who went missing from near her grandparents’ home in Cashelard,
Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal on March 18, 1977, is the subject of an
ongoing Garda investigation.
Garda Siochána continue to appeal to anyone with information to contact
the incident room at Ballyshannon Garda Station on 071 9858530, the
Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.”
spokesperson for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: “The
Minister understands that the disappearance of Mary Boyle is an open and
ongoing investigation, and any persons with information should bring it
to the attention of An Garda Síochána. Allegations in relation to
inappropriate Garda actions are a matter for Garda Siochana Ombudsman
If anyone has information which can help Ann Boyle and Gemma contact Mike Lockley by email or call 0121 234 5553.
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