Work on woodland that gardaí believe is connected to the disappearance of Trevor Deely will continue for a fourth day today as his family await news, writes Caroline O’Doherty.
The task of removing dense undergrowth and vegetation is still ongoing but detectives are hopeful a sufficient area will be cleared to allow a detailed search to begin within days.
A forensic archaeologist is on site at the three-acre search zone on the outskirts of Chapelizod in Dublin to oversee the search which, it is hoped, will uncover the remains of Mr Deely, the 22-year-old Bank of Ireland employee who went missing on his way home from a Christmas party in December 2000.
Another expert in the field said the operation would be painstaking. Aidan Harte of Munster Archaeology, who is not involved in the case, said the first priority in any search site was to clear it as much as possible.
“The clearing of vegetation permits a geophysical survey to take place,” he said. “The ground has to be clear for that to happen and similarly for the canine search. Then it’s a matter of a systematic search in a grid by grid fashion so that nothing is missed.”
Mr Harte said geophysical surveys generally relied on electrical impulses that penetrate the ground.
“That will highlight anomalies — objects in the ground or disturbances.”
He said while technology was a great aid in searches such as this, a successful operation required enormous care and patience.
“You’re looking for signs that indicate a disturbance in the past and whether it’s 17 years ago or 1,700 years ago, it’s largely the same principle, with the difference that the forensic archaeologist has to be extremely careful not to disturb any criminal evidence that might be connected to the site and very aware of how that might compromise a case.”
Gardaí have blocked off the site from public access and erected barriers along fencing to allow them to work unobserved. The arrival of portacabins, a truck, excavator, skips and wheeled bins backed up their warning that their search could take weeks.
They moved on to the site last Saturday following a tip-off that Mr Deely had been murdered and buried there after a chance encounter with a known criminal.
No trace of the young Co Kildare man has ever been found and his family have campaigned annually on the anniversary of his disappearance, seeking the public’s help to find out what happened to him.
This article first appeared on the Irish Examiner.