Every time writer Marisa Mackle takes a walk in the Dublin Mountains, she asks, “Annie, where are you?”
It’s almost 30 years since her friend Annie McCarrick disappeared on a day trip to Enniskerry in March 1993, just a few years after the American arrived in Ireland to study.
Haunting footage of a carefree Annie delightedly thanking her nana “so much for the money” she sent her to Dublin opens a new documentary about the ongoing mystery.
The only child of parents with strong Irish connections, she is described as “bright, beautiful, good humoured, confident, outgoing”.
Theories have been plentiful over the decades, but no crime scene, and in those days of scarce CCTV footage, Gardaí spent the first few weeks of the investigation following up over 100 leads and making dozens of testimonies.
In a new one to scan Documentary, Mackle, who waitressed with Annie at the Courtyard Restaurant in Donnybrook, says she believes her friend is somewhere in the Dublin Mountains.
“When I’m upstairs, I pray for Annie. I just hope that one day someone finds something,” she says. “My personal belief is that there was a serial killer.”
It’s a theory shared by one of the lead detectives on the original case. “It was certainly no coincidence that a number of women traveling alone went missing in the East [of the country]says retired Detective Garda Thomas Rock. “Looking back on it now, it looks like it could have been the same person.
“One of the biggest difficulties in solving a case like this is that you don’t have a crime scene, you don’t have a body, you don’t have physical evidence.
“It definitely tells me that the person who executed it was meticulous and thought it through.”
The 27-year-old was last seen alive on Friday March 26, 1993, boarding a bus bound for Enniskerry in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.
When Gardaí began investigating Annie’s disappearance, they treated it as a missing person case as there was no evidence of foul play.
A bouncer at Johnnie Fox’s, a pub about 4 miles from Enniskerry, initially claimed to have seen her in the pub that night in the company of a man, but the former detective says it’s difficult to come to a definitive conclusion ‘on identification’ get “.
The identification never sounded right with Mackle.
“I don’t think Annie was ever with Johnnie Fox,” she says. “Annie wouldn’t have drunk the night away with a stranger at Johnnie Fox’s. She wouldn’t have drunk the night with anyone. That was always a very improbable story for me.
“Annie was a very striking girl and if she knew her personality she would have spoken to those around her.”
Mr Rock recalls that the McCarrick family came to Ireland when hundreds of volunteers were looking for traces of Annie.
“They were very concerned and anxious parents and took a very proactive role in the investigation,” he says. “We set up a mobile communications center at Johnnie Fox’s and conducted massive searches in the hills of Dublin and Wicklow. But whoever took them made sure there was nothing left.
“Some people are unaware of the sheer size of the Wicklow and Dublin Mountains. It’s only when you go up there that you realize the size of this area, its remoteness – and the likelihood that a body could be buried up there that is never found.
“We’ve had sightings of her where people have come forward and said they’ve taken her or taken her here and there and we had to follow every lead.
“For the first few weeks, the whole focus of the investigation was trying to find out where she had gone. It’s different in an investigation where you have a scene and a body.”
Over time, the family brought in a private investigator who brought in a psychic medium, and they also offered a reward for information.
“It was a very intense and massive investigation. The US State Department in Washington also got involved,” says the former detective.
In the years that followed, Annie’s disappearance was linked to the cases of other women going missing in the east of the country, leading to the creation of Operation Trace.
“There were similarities between three of the missing women — there was Annie McCarrick, JoJo Dullard and then there was Deirdre Jacob — three single women who were out walking and then they suddenly disappeared and were never seen again,” Mr Rock says.
The documentary also details how Larry Murphy – who continues to be an interesting figure on the case – was arrested in February 2000 for the kidnapping, rape and attempted murder of a young woman in the Wicklow Mountains. She was saved when two hunters stumbled upon the horrifying scene, and Murphy was later sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Mr Rock says you don’t have a trial without evidence.
“As a detective you have to work with what you have – you can worry about who is responsible or not.”
Kenneth Strange, a former FBI agent and friend of the McCarrick family, helped and advised her and took an active interest in the case by the 10th anniversary.
“My gut tells me that she made her way to Enniskerry and met someone there or was approached by someone who might have asked her for directions – and then it’s over at that point,” he says.
“I would call that person a psychopath. These are people acting alone – they have a place where they know they’re going to dispose of the body.”
Almost 30 years later, Annie’s mum Nancy is still waiting for answers – but her father John died in 2009 without ever finding out what happened to his only child.
Scannal: Annie McCarrick airs Tuesday at 7pm on RTÉ One
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/mystery-in-the-mountains-will-annie-mccarrick-ever-be-found-41581741.html Mystery in the Mountains: Will Annie McCarrick Ever Be Found?