“If people went missing in the US, you would not be surprised, but not in the island of saints and scholars” – Garda Assistant Commissioner Martin Donnellan.
When this journalist ended part one of this twisting series, young college student Annie McCarrick had vanished from the lives of those she loved. Her absence fell heavily on Rita Fortune and Hilary Brady, her two dinner guests. They were left outside Annie’s flat in the cold, knocking and receiving no answer from their host. Right away, this struck the pair as odd. In true Irish style, they retreated to the warmth of a nearby pub believing Annie was after losing track of time, just out and about. When the pair returned to McCarrick’s flat a half-hour later, yet again Annie did not appear when they knocked.
Rita and Hilary had a bond with Annie. They knew her better than anyone on the Irish side of the Atlantic. After all, Annie’s dinner party was supposed to be a way of thanking the couple for helping her find her footing in Ireland. They rang Annie later and were greeted by silence once again. They then rang Annie’s mother, Nancy McCarrick. Annie had been looking forward to her mother visiting her from America in the coming weeks.
It took another 48 hours, several calls to Annie’s place of work and Annie’s flatmates returning home to find a full Quinnsworth’s shopping bag before the feeling that something was amiss had become fully clear. This brings the series of events to a Monday, the 29th of March 1993.
The couple rang Nancy McCarrick to ask the dreaded question: ‘Have you heard from Annie at all?’. The hollow answer to this question brought Nancy to board a plane destined for Ireland, taking her trip earlier than she had ever expected.
From the airport, the trio grouped together and went to the local Garda station to report Annie missing – roughly eighty hours since the young woman was last seen.
It took seven more days for an appeal to be issued to the public asking for information. That was the first use of the iconic photo of Annie McCarrick, labelling her as missing.
The McCarrick family did not have belief in the Irish Gardaí from the start. The first two weeks had not brought their daughter anywhere close to being in their arms.
Annie’s father, a retired American cop used his experience to extend the canvassing of nearby towns, offering a large sum of money for any information and hiring a private investigator. Speaking to the Irish Independent, John McCarrick (Annie’s father) said this on the Gardaí’s investigation: “At the start, it was difficult to even get them to take the idea of Annie as a missing person seriously. They said she was an adult and so on.”
The Gardaí’s efforts brought the bouncer at Johnny Fox’s pub forward with information, as detailed in my previous Unanswered article. This alleged sighting of Annie is now strongly believed to have not been Annie at all, but an American tourist. Similar sightings thought to be Annie came forward, further confusing the timeline of the investigation.
Every morning throughout the two-month period the McCarrick family resided in Ireland looking for their beloved Annie, they left their B&B to visit the surrounding areas and search. Their own investigation revealed a more reliable, local sighting. A shop assistant reportedly remembered a young woman with a distinctive American accent buying postage stamps.
Whether McCarrick had taken the bus to go walking in solitude in the fresh air, or whether she was enjoying a gig at the local pub still remains a mystery, and pales in comparison to the personal information the Gardaí seized from one of Annie’s friends. For a while, the lead focus of the investigation had been a man McCarrick had worked with and had possible romantic connections with. According to some local gossip, Annie had shared with her friend that she had a brief meeting with the man in question on the previous Saturday. She admitted that she had gone ‘too far’ with him and just wanted to forget about the situation.
When Annie’s mystery man’s alibi was proven false, the excuse for his gross lie was that he was covering for himself. He was terrified that his girlfriend would find out about his affair with Annie. Strangely enough (or maybe not so much), the Gardaí never revisited this character and his possible role in Annie’s disappearance. Maybe this was down to the male culture that is still plastered across Ireland today. Boys will be boys, won’t they? Or perhaps it was down to the lack of feminine touch to the investigation, bar Annie’s mother.
As I have warned you before, reader, there is a foggy and sad energy surrounding Annie’s case. Annie’s disappearance serves as a beginning edge for the Vanishing Triangle.
Annie’s family went home to America, at a loss.
Several years later, in 2009, a connection was made with the original bouncer sighting. New information came to light on the man who had paid for the entry of Annie McCarrick to Johnny Fox’s Pub. The suspect was identified as a hitman for the West Belfast Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Annie’s second mystery man was on the run from the North side of Ireland for murder. On the date in question, it is believed he had been staying with some friends in a safehouse near the pub.
Retired Detective Sergeant Alan Bailey recalls the informant who had brought the information forward as being a “very reliable source”.
Does this sound like the plot of the next all-Ireland film? Disturbingly so.
According to the source, the hitman was attracted to Annie. A mixture of drink and Annie’s fascination with all things Ireland are perceived to have been the perfect situation for the suspect to spill all of his and the IRA’s deepest, darkest secrets to the young woman. Annie was now, unknowingly, packed full of lethal information. Whether she was disgusted, or if the man had gone too far and mentioned his fellow members by name is unknown. He copped on to the potential consequences awaiting him by burdening Annie with this information. It has been suggested that he offered her a lift or scared her into his Ford Sierra. This man was cunning, though. According to the source, he made sure to go to the bathroom while Annie made her way into the parking lot – giving no chance for witnesses spotting them leaving together.
What he allegedly did next, I will keep within the words of Sergeant Bailey, “[he] drove her up the mountains where he killed her, and concealed her body behind some bushes”.
When the hitman returned to his safehouse, he told his friends a warped version of what had happened, with Annie cast in the role of a Northern spy. He and his friends worked together to move the deceased McCarrick somewhere she would never be found, to the Dublin or Wicklow mountains; and they were successful.
The villainous IRA man reportedly returned to the North shortly afterwards. He was once again exiled from the IRA when allegations of sexual assault were made against him by the teenage daughter of a powerful Republican. He relocated permanently to America (of all places) and survived on work at a pub given to him by a sympathiser.
The McCarrick’s belief is firmly in the theory that it was Larry Murphy, an Irish convicted sexual criminal, who was the last person to see their daughter.
The dots connect with Murphy and connect to the other women in the Triangle. Murphy was jailed for 15 years in 2000 after being caught in the act of abducting and attempting to murder a Carlow businesswoman. The woman’s life was miraculously spared thanks to two men passing by and finding Murphy trying to suffocate his victim with a plastic bag. Her fate, much like Annie’s suggested fate, would have been a burial in the Wicklow mountains. It is generally believed this was not his first time committing such a grievous act, due to his remarks made while he was being questioned on the Carlow woman’s injuries, “Well, she’s alive, isn’t she?” and “She was lucky”, his remorse and humanity are non-existent. By coincidence or by device, the Vanishing Triangle came to a halt once Larry Murphy was thrown behind bars.
Larry Murphy, like our IRA suspect, was believed to have been residing outside of Ireland after his release in 2010 after serving just 10 years of his sentence. He now lives in Mullingar with his fellow crime buddies, always under the sharp eye of the press.
The McCarrick family still have hope in their hearts that someday Annie will be brought back to them. Every now and then they set foot on the cold damp ground of Ireland, knowing that their daughter is somewhere out there in the thousands of miles of green. They meet with investigators, get updated on any progress and meet with journalists, trying to make sure that Annie is not forgotten.
In every statement the McCarricks have given to the press, they make one thing clear: Annie is not a legend. She is a person – a person who is deeply loved and missed.
John McCarrick unfortunately passed away from issues resulting from the stress he endured while searching and waiting for his daughter. Discussing his daughter, he told the Independent, “Would I want to know what happened? Back then, yes. But now…I’m not so sure.”
Nancy McCarrick, still alive and driven to find her daughter, said the opposite when speaking to the Irish Sun, she stated: “I’m pretty sure I’ll never see her again. My greatest wish would be to be able to take her home. To find out what happened really would be a gift at this point. It really would.”
It is important to remember Annie as an individual and as still missing. She is also a signifier of Ireland’s entry into the modern world. Reminding the Green Isle that it is not isolated and cannot make its own morals and rulings. And maybe it is fair to say that Ireland’s lack of reaction and the slow movement of the investigation was a foreshadowing welcome mat for what was to come.