Show Notes

The birth of a baby, for most, is the happiest day of people's lives. Your life suddenly becomes all about this tiny baby who solely depends on you and the love you feel for them is greater than words can describe. It seems to be against every law of human nature to harm a child but there are some cruel people in the world, and today, we’ll be talking about a particularly heart-breaking case that highlights the worst humanity has to offer. Trigger warning, this episode will discuss the death of a new-born child and listener discretion is advised. Let’s uncover the case best known as the Kerry Babies case.  

Anyone with information is asked to contact Cahersiveen garda station at 066-9473610 - or the Garda Confidential Line at 1800 666 111. 

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Music by CO.AG - Dark Rage & The Rake


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Joanna Hayes & her daugher Yvonne
Protests outside the inquest
The Kerry John Doe's grave


Sources

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42704231 

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/garda%C3%AD-apologise-to-woman-at-centre-of-kerry-babies-case-1.3357151 

http://idesweb.bc.edu/isr/system/files/Maguire_ChangingFace.pdf 

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/garda%C3%AD-still-law-unto-themselves-34-years-after-kerry-babies-case-1.3357794 

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/garda%C3%AD-apologise-to-woman-at-centre-of-kerry-babies-case-1.3357151 

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/baby-john-deserves-the-truth-garda-in-public-appeal-as-apology-issued-to-joanne-hayes-over-kerry-babies-investigation-36494480.html 

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/murder-inquiry-opens-into-death-of-baby-john-in-kerry-in-1984-1.3358121 

http://www.theniallboylanshow.com/kerry-babies-gardai-likely-to-offer-apology-for-their-handling-of-case/ 

https://randomirishnews.com/2015/12/19/kerry-babies-appeal/ 

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/kerry-babies-how-the-discovery-of-a-babys-body-on-a-beach-34-years-ago-sparked-a-traumatic-series-of-events-that-shocked-ireland-36497090.html 

https://www.thesun.ie/news/2056207/what-was-the-kerry-babies-scandal-of-1984-who-was-joanne-hayes-did-gardai-really-think-she-was-pregnant-with-twins-by-two-men-why-did-cops-apologise-today/ 

https://www.giveblood.ie/Learn-About-Blood/Blood_Group_Basics/Blood_Group_Basics.html 
 

Show Transcript

The birth of a baby, for most, is the happiest day of people's lives. Your life suddenly becomes all about this tiny baby who solely depends on you and the love you feel for them is greater than words can describe. It seems to be against every law of human nature to harm a child but there are some cruel people in the world, and today, we’ll be talking about a particularly heart-breaking case that highlights the worst humanity has to offer. Trigger warning, this episode will discuss the death of a new-born child and listener discretion is advised. Let’s uncover the case best known as the Kerry Babies case.  

 

This case starts in White Strand, Cahersiveen, County Kerry, Ireland on the 14th of April 1984. A jogger stumbles across a body of a newborn baby inside a plastic bag, placed on the bottom of a cliff on a beach. A post-mortem revealed the child was male, approximately five days old, had died two days before his body was discovered, meaning he was most likely born on or around the 7th of April 1984. He died under horrific circumstances and had been stabbed 28 times. Local undertaker Tom Cournane gave the child a baptism, named him John and paid for his gravestone which said "I am the Kerry baby, christened on April 14, 1984, named John. I forgive". 

 

In an attempted to find justice for the child, Gardaí Síochána (Irish police) talked to everyone in the area who had been pregnant recently or had just given birth, when they came across Joanna Hayes. Joanna was 25 years old and was a single mother to Yvonne, a child fathered to a married man called Jeremiah Locke. She lived just under 50 miles away from where Baby John Doe was discovered and on the 14th of April, Joanna was admitted into hospital after complaining of severe vaginal bleeding. Medical staff at the hospital scanned her uterus and they determined that she had given birth within the last 48 hours. When she was asked about her baby, Joanna refused to talk about it and even denied that she had been pregnant. The hospital staff were aware of the case, so they contacted policed. The Gardaí was convinced that Joanna was Baby John Doe's mother and I can certainly understand their initial suspicion: she was denying that she had recently been pregnant, despite evidence to the contrary and her admission into hospital was only 2 days after Baby John Doe was found. However, according to the post-mortem, Baby John Doe was likely born on the 7th of April however the hospital's finding showed that Joanne gave birth between the 12th-14th, almost a week's difference. However, the police brought her in for interrogation anyway. She admitted that she had been recently pregnant, and her baby had been still born. She told police that she had buried the baby on her family's farm. The Gardaí didn't believe her and after hours of questioning, she confessed to being Baby John Doe's mother, a statement she would later retract. She was charged on the 1st of May with the murder. Her sister Kathleen, brother Ned and Mike and her aunt Bridie were charged with helping dispose of a body, after they admitted to assisting Joanne. 

 

The next day, the Gardaí searched the family farm where Joanna lived and they found the body of another baby, which was consistent with Joanna's original story that her baby was stillborn, but she was charged with the murder of that baby too, but it was later discovered that that child had indeed died of natural causes. Blood tests were taken from Joanna, Jeremiah and the two babies, but the results were no what the Gardaí expected. The baby found on the farm had Type O blood, consistent with Joanna and Jeremiah being the parents, however Baby John Doe had type A, meaning that Joanna and Jeremiah couldn't have fathered the child together. Convinced that Joanna was the mother of Baby John Doe, Gardaí came up with a new theory: Joanna had become pregnant with twins, but the twins had two separate fathers. They claimed that one baby was born in a field and the second was born in Joanna's house. After she saw that one of the baby's had died of natural causes, she murdered the second baby, drove 50 miles and threw the body off a cliff where it was later discovered. 

 

There is so much wrong with this theory that it is hard to know where to begin. It is possible for twins to have two separate fathers; it is called hetero-panel superfecundation. In order hetero-panel super-fecundation to happen, a woman has to have unprotected sex with two men within five days of each other and both sperm must fertilise two separate eggs. Most cases are only discovered through paternity disputes, so it is unknown exactly how many cases exist, but it is thought to be exceptionally rare. They gave no evidence that Joanne was in a relationship with anyone other than Jeremiah close to the time she would have conceived, and they made no attempted to find out who the father of the second baby could be.  Hetero-panel superfecundation means the babies would have been conceived within days of each other, meaning they would have been born at the same time. Twins are almost always born within minutes of each other, so even if she had been pregnant with two babies by two different fathers, it's impossible he would have given birth to one of the 7th and the other on the 12th. The judge agreed that the theory was too far-fetched and due to lack of evidence, the charges against Joanna and her family were dismissed in October 1984. 

 

That was not the end for Joanna and her family. They filed a complaint against the Gardaí, claiming that she was forced to confess to the murder of Baby John Doe because officers spat at her, threatened her and assaulted her during the interrogation. The complaint went to a tribunal which started on the 7th of January 1985. One hundred and nine witnesses were called to testify over eight two days. During the tribunal, Joanna was forced to discuss her sexual history, menstrual cycles and use of contraception. Many were outraged that she would have to talk about such intimate things in open court, especially since she had been cleared of involvement in the death of both babies. The tribunal's purpose has to investigate Joanna's claims of police brutality but it seems she was the one put on trial, not the police. The tribunal soon turned into a feminism issue, with the Daily Committee of Women's Rights saying that the line of questioning was "insensitive ... very, very frightening... harrowing and quite horrific. . . and shameful". Most people supported Joanna, but there were those that thought she had brought trouble upon herself for having had an affair with a married man and getting pregnant twice outside of wedlock. In general, the Hayes were seen as being a respectable family and Joanne became a heroine in the fight against gross abuse of power on part of Gardaí. Finally, it was time for Judge Kevin Lynch to make his ruling: he stated that no coercion was used to make Joanna confess but barely spoke about that matter. Instead, he said Joanne had murdered her baby by suffocating him, and that she and her family had lied about killing Baby John Doe out of guilt from witnessing Joanne Hayes “do away with”  her baby. Many were outraged as there was absolutely no evidence to prove Joanna's baby had been murdered, in fact the post mortem showed the baby had died of natural causes. Many believe that the judge disapproved of Joanna's moral behaviour and that was the main focus of the tribunal, no police brutality or abuse of power by the Gardaí. 

 

In 2018, DNA definitively concluded that Joanna Hayes was not Baby John Doe and she was given a formal and public apology by the Gardaí. An officer from the Gardaí stated “On behalf of An Garda Síochána, I would like to sincerely apologise to Ms Hayes for that, as well as the awful stress and pain she has been put through as a result of the original investigation into this matter, which fell well short of the required standards.” They have since made a new appeal for information in Baby John Doe's case and believe that his parents were from the area where he was found. A statement from the Gardaí read: "We're looking back now over 33 years and time has moved on, society has changed, people may now be freer to come forward. In relation to the change, attitudes change, the weak become strong and the strong may have been obstructing or impeding the investigation, and the strong may now have become weak." In March 2019, Joanne Hayes and four members of her family began proceeding against the state in order to receive compensation for their horrific ordeal. Joanna's baby was buried in Abbeydorney cemetery and Baby John Doe was buried in Cahersiveen. His headstone used to read: I am the Kerry baby baptised on 14-4-1984 named John. I forgive. However in 2004, his gravestone was vandalised by an unknown person/persons. The headstone was replaced but "I forgive" was removed. Baby John Doe never had a real life. He didn't stand a chance. He deserved much more than that and deserves not only justice, but a name. 

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Cahersiveen garda station at 066-9473610 - or the Garda Confidential Line at 1800 666 111.