The Unsolved Murder Of 13 Year Old Philip Cairns, 1986, Dublin, Ireland

The date was 23rd October 1986. This schoolboy had left his school to return home for lunch. He went out of the gates at about 12.45pm, he left to walk back at 1.30pm. He has not been seen since.

Colaiste Eanna Secondary School is where the red marker is. Ballyroan Rd to the north was where Philip lived.

There were no reasons that this boy, complete with satchel etc, would just decide to walk away into time. Unfortunately, there is no real idea what happened to him on that short walk.

Standard searches were made with masses of people and the police. Open land, rivers and the urban district were scoured. The doors were knocked on and the community came together.

Six days later two young women were walking along what is described as a Laneway (alley) they found what turned out to be Philip’s satchel. Books were missing from it, but it was undoubtedly his. DNA testing has, at the time of writing, not turned up anything definite.

Connection To A Convicted Paedophile

In 2007 a DJ called Eamon Cooke was convicted of historic sex offences that went back to the 1970s. Cooke who shares the surname with a child abuser and murderer in the UK was a violent man. His DJ years were spent at a pirate (illegal/unlicensed) radio station which he owned from 1977 to 2003.

The convictions against him ranged from trying to shoot police officers to sexual assaults on girls. It was for the latter offences that he went to prison for the final time in 2007. He died at the age of 79 in 2016.

At the time Philip Cairns disappeared Cooke was often just 20 minutes of drive time to the south west of Rathfarnham. Later he claimed he had noticed tire tracks in the mud leading to the open land he owned. He said he had to use a 4×4 to make the journey at that point so a car would not normally have attempted it. All of a sudden this citizen, who had an uneasy relationship with the cops, decided to do his duty. He said he called in at the Garda (police) station in Rathfarnham and reported the tire tracks. He felt, apparently he said this often, those tracks were something to do with the missing boy.

Cooke is said to have been very interested in the case as the years went by. Comments attributed to him include stating Philip would not be found and that he had spent a year around the hills near to his land looking for the boy.

The radio station he owned was in an area of Dublin called Inchicore which is to the north of where Philip went missing. One of his child sex victims said she had been with Cooke when he picked Philip up in his car and then drove to Inchicore and the studio. She said she saw Philip being hit by Cooke and the boy was knocked unconscious. In an Irish Mirror article a now retired detective believes the witness is very credible. This cop interviewed Cooke as he was in a hospice shortly before his death. The sexual predator of children said very interesting things that tied into what the witness had said, yet he did not confess. He died a few days later.

The Theory That Philip Knew His Killer

Philip Cairns

Another retired detective gave the opinion that whatever happened to the boy it was at the hand of someone he knew. He points out there was no drama that anyone reported. Philip was walking to school and then vanished. Also the cop said that whoever went and placed the satchel in the alley must have been comfortable being in that area. There was a lot of police activity, according to him, plus there would have been heightened community awareness.

I see his point. A stranger wandering down an alley six days after a 13 year old boy goes missing would have been spotted. That is if the person placing it looked like a stereotypical sexual predator. If a woman or a child had been sent to do it they would have been less obvious.

We have a list of 30 children who vanished or were killed without resolution in one single UK list. All between 1966 and 2000. Several of them went missing in a similarly quiet way. One case, Wesley Neailey, was solved and it involved a paedophile neighbour intercepting the boy with a friendly word or two. It is possible that this is what occurred here. To kids, if a person is not ‘weird’ somehow and they are a familiar face they can be disarming.

Eamon Cooke comes into this category again. I have seen reporting that Philip did know him though the memory was through the eyes of a victim of Cooke’s who was very young at the time. The police put a lot of confidence in the claim.

Loose Ends And Loose Thoughts

The Garda are the ones with the file and the years of investigation. The community know the area and the witness, though young, had good reason to know Cooke. My only concern is that when we get a known paedophile it is sometimes forgotten that we have many around us at all times.

As we look more at the cases from that period (Cooke was said to have been very active in the mid 80s) the more we become convinced of low life like him working together.

In South London, and the general area to the South Coast of England, there were a lot of groups operating in ways that gave them access to kids. Several I can think of were very close to each other. They shared images and had contacts all over. One of Cooke’s methods of control was to take photographs of his victims and threaten to expose them if he was reported. The same method is used online today. The modern predators also share images and information.

If Cooke took this poor boy then fair enough. It sounds convincing that he did. All I would ask is that we keep an open mind as to who else might have been involved. Maybe they planted the satchel, maybe they did more.

In the final analysis there is no evidence against anyone that could give the family resolution. There is still hope though. Cooke was said to have been very clever. It is said he wouldn’t have touched the bag or have either body or missing books found. I don’t accept his cleverness. He preyed on the young and defenseless. He, like many others, was arrested and convicted. Someone out there could still come forward with another name, someone still alive who had something to do with it. That knock on their door is not far away at any time. We see cases solved more and more often as the science improves.

Take Care

John T

The link to the UK list is here

Update March 2024, nothing new has been reported in this case.


Please if you see something or sense something to do with the safety of kids, report it.