Archive for August 12th, 2010

Summer 1995 and London was fast draining of charm. In my last year at Middlesex University, a young psycho was sauntering about North London slashing women’s throats. Anthony Peter Roach, age 24, from Hornsey, had stabbed a woman to death as she walked home from Turnpike Lane Tube station. Hours later he attempted to murder a woman a couple of miles away and over the weeks before he was caught, there’d been several attempted attacks on students. We were advised to go nowhere alone. I’d just moved from Stamford Hill back to Tottenham, the same week a woman was abducted in broad daylight from a bus-stop near Seven Sisters and gangraped for six hours, as they drove around taking turns. No-one at the bus stop rang for help, even though the woman was kicking and screaming as the 4-man gang dragged her by the hair and sped off. Newspaper reports later said the people at the bus-stop assumed the woman must’ve known the men…that it seemed like a bit of a ‘game’. After seven years in London, I packed up and left.

Back in Dublin there an was air of what I can only describe as immaculateness. At least that’s how it seemed to me during the first few months. Students linking each other through the archway at Trinity College eating apples, jugglers and quirky musicians on Grafton Street, market stall women bellowing their wares on Moore Street, a welly of new cafes splattered in colourful art with latte machines fizzling away. I took in the turrety architecture all over town in a way I’d clear forgotten to do before. I visited museums, took up a language class, went on a a guided tour of the State Apartments and Viking ruins of Dublin Castle for a snitch at £1.75 (Irish pounds). The place was thriving and I was home! Four months later that feeling of inviolability vanished when 21-year-old JoJo Dullard was plucked from the streets of Moone in Kildare, never to be seen alive again. She was abducted, abused, murdered, buried, silenced: both her family and Gardaí believe so.

JoJo Dullard, missing since November 1995

I obsessed about JoJo’s terribly sad tale from the off. Dublin was so expensive and she’d dropped out of her beautician’s course to take up a job in a pub back home in Callan, Co. Kilkenny. I remember reading that her sister Mary was ‘delighted’ with the decision as she’d always worried sick about her in the mean grip of the unpredictable capital. The awful crawly coincidence of ordering that last drink in Bruxelles (a pub I drank in with my mates) and missing the bus home. Hitching on roads that perhaps we all hitched along in the 1980s/90s at some stage (I know I did, and often late at night too, coming back from parties in Kildare or as far away as Galway). JoJo was used to hitching in this manner: most rural teenagers and young adults were. But it was late, she was in a hurry, probably terribly panicked about just getting home. She’d travelled to Dublin that day to pick up her last dole payment and sign off for good. According to her family, she wasn’t even going to bother. That small detail really got me.

I later wrote a short story about that dark cold November night, trying to imagine the moment when JoJo ‘knew’ something was wrong. I described the landscape as ‘….dark countryside, potted with grubby fields and grimy ditches, mucky mountains that would hardly be classed as mountains compared to the Jura or the Pyrenees. Lonely out-of-the-way places good for trapping animals and smashing up stones.’ I thought of all the missing women who had been struck down in their prime ‘with lump hammers, with plastic bags over their heads, with hard shattering punches, choked by the grasping hands of mad men’. That the moments in which the missing women met their deaths were really and truly the stuff of every woman’s harshest nightmare. And I thought of JoJo, spotting something peculiar in his car, the awful foreboding when his tone may have changed, when she knew, undoubtedly, what he was going to attempt next. ‘Even in the closing seconds when your brain is fizzing, popping, fading, you know not to bother making sense of it,’ I wrote in my short story. But in reality it’s completely impossible to imagine and only the sick can ever really get there.

Larry Murphy: questioned in relation to some of Ireland's missing women

Larry Murphy walked free from Arbour Hill Prison early today, whizzing off into the dawn in a dark grey taxi. Some reckon he’ll stay in Dublin, others say he might head over to the UK soon. His brother Thomas was on radio earlier saying he should never have been released. Either way he wasn’t letting Gardaí know of his plans and he also refused a flat on Dublin’s Northside, where police could’ve kept him under careful surveillance. I mention him here because he’s been previously considered a prime suspect in the case of JoJo’s disappearance and in Annie McCarrick’s and Deirdre Jacob. He’s never assisted police with their enquiries in this matter and neither has he ever been charged in relation to the three missing women. A Garda I once interviewed said it was utterly chilling how he’d simply smirk and stay quiet, when asked about them. He also refused therapy, resisted any remorse for the brutal rape and attempted murder of a Carlow business woman in 2000 (which landed him in jail). The only comment he ever made about her was: “She’s alive, isn’t she?” Much of his time was spent in prison carving wooden toys for the children of staff and various charities. He even made a podium for the Special Olympics, by all accounts: a model prisoner.

Despite the medieval braying from the tabloid press that he’ll strike again and soon, I personally don’t believe for a nanosecond that Larry Murphy is going to put a foot wrong for a very long time. He can wait. He can play with the authorities and the public. Memories will sustain him. This day is a very special one for him after all. Even just the God of small things: he hasn’t seen any of our modern capital’s hallmarks for a start: the Luas, the spire, etc. There’s a lot to take in. Especially the reams of happy young women pacing along the city streets, tired women too, stomping home from work. Women who will have no idea who he is or what he’s done. It’s been an age since he was able to glance sideways at strangers, with every ounce of his civil rights protected. The fact remains that there are dozens of Larry Murphys out there, a lot of whom we’ve handily forgotten. The likes of Paddy O Driscoll from Fermoy in Cork, released from prison in 2004 after serving a sentence for raping a young mother: six months later he bludgeoned another woman over the head with a brick, knocked her unconscious and raped her for over an hour. There are literally too many of these incurable psychopathic rapist and murderer types to recount here, in one blog. For the time being the public is concentrating on Larry and the obscenely Draconian laws that allow for an affirmed ‘critically dangerous’ person to roam our streets with freedom honoured and upheld and intact.

By contrast the families of the missing women have felt very unsupported; not just with the formal investigsations but also with funding and resources. I wrote an aritcle in the middle of the boom about the Missing Persons’ Helpline being shut down due to ‘lack of funds’ (31st March 2005). On the same day it was reported in the media that ‘one million euro mortgages’ in the nation’s capital were the new-fangled norm. While the property pages boasted that the boom was bigger and better and louder than ever, families of Ireland’s disappeared slumped back in bankrupt silence.

JoJo's sister Mary Phelan, at the monument for the missing in Co. Kilkenny

I think too of JoJo’s family today, and the families of all the other missing women, trying very hard to avoid the horrible hype of Larry’s freedom. It’s a daily grind for these people just to forget. And of course without any bodies or DNA evidence, there is little or no hope of the missing women cases ever being solved. There’s scant hope too because Garda searches for these women in almost all cases were hideously delayed during the first few crucial days. Some of the families would later travel unaided to America to ask for help from the FBI because they felt so ignored by the Irish authorities. In Jo Jo’s case it was even suggested to her family that she may have got the boat clear out of Ireland altogether of her own accord due to ‘personal problems’. You can read the individual stories in a Sunday World book here:

There’s a photo of JoJo that always sticks out in my mind, back in the 1980s, sitting in her bedroom smiling away, a WHAM poster carefully sellotaped to the wall. An ordinary teenage girl on the brink of everything. Back in the day when the Irish countryside in which she lived was wild and uncultivated, when young men like Larry were out hunting for animals to tear up alive. Long before the ambush of boutique-style hotels took over or the reality sunk in of how utterly easy it is to murder, bury, and get away with it.

June Caldwell  is a writer, who after 13 years of journalism, is finally writing a novel. She has a MA in Creative Writing and was winner of ‘Best Blog Post’ award at the 2011 Irish Blog Awards. You can read this post on her own blog here:

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Just as it doesn’t surprise me that the sun rises in the morning and the bank ran screaming from my mortgage application, it doesn’t surpise me that HPOA Girl, a.k.a Jenny Whiteboard, is a hoax. For those of you unaware of the Twitter-fanned flames of Jenny’s jokey jinks, HPOA Girl was supposedly a disgruntled office worker who outed her boss as a Farmville addict and halitosis-ridden sleazebag after she overheard him refer to her as a Hot Piece Of Ass. In a series of thirty-three photos, published on comedy site The Chive, “Jenny” uses her dry-wipe whiteboard to quit her job and let her former boss (and his giggling subordinates) know exactly what she thinks of him.

First impressions, all over the world wide hinterland, was that “Jenny” was a hero. Fed up with her boss’s sexist attitude and draconian treatment of his staff, she uses the savvy he never acknowledged in her to humiliate him. It was a fairytale for those of us still suffering under Brentist management techniques, a blow struck for the common worker, an example to all of us oppressed over the water cooler. Except, of course, it wasn’t. “Jenny” is an actress. Her act of bravery was but a skit written by The Chive. Woe and waily? Not quite. It’s difficult to mourn a funny swipe at the establishment when “Jenny” failed on both accounts. It was no swipe at workplace sexism. And it just wasn’t funny.

I don’t mean that it wasn’t funny because its heroine just wasn’t feminist enough. It simply wasn’t funny. The first tweets I read let on that it was an absolute triumph of wit over boorishness, but perhaps I have been ruined by years stuck up my own arse reading Tolstoy, because I found “Jenny’s” coup on the dreary side of underwhelming. A feminist heroine, and the best weapon she has is the revelation that her boss … plays Farmville? Yawnsville, mo’ liek. Surely the guys from The Chive could have come up with something a bit more side-splitting than revenge against a smelly nerd ruling over the hawt folks?

Then, of course, there was the fact that “Jenny”, the lady so offended by being referred to as a Hot Piece Of Ass, went to great pains to prove that she was a Hot Piece Of Ass, even going so far as to do a Mariah and perform a needless costume change right in the middle of her call to arms. Nonsensical nonsense indeed. To be sure, to be sure, whenever I am offended by a sexist comment, I try to strip down to a pair of Daisy Dukes and put my shapeliest leg forward, too. That’ll learn the ooglers.

Only we may use HPOA. That’s our word.

If there was any ‘ikkle clue to the webbly that “Jenny” wasn’t what she seemed, it was the fact that she was, in fact, a very HPOA and proud of it. Like Clark Kent, all she had to do at the end of her whiteboard exposé was take off her nerdy office glasses and exposé the HPOA within. Rather too perfectly cast for the masses to identify with her, no? Just like oft-parodied teen movie She’s All That, I wasn’t buying it.

Nor was the sceptical division of the Geek Brigade, it seems, for no sooner had “Jenny” gone viral than they were sneering at its less-than-trustworthy provenance. Could “Jenny” have been an ad for something, something wonderful and clever and great that hasn’t been revealed to us yet, something that will make belated with welcome sense of this dusty attempt at LULZ? Time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ll stick to what’s genuinely witty for my laughs, and keep my accolades for those who don’t try to construct a thrilling tale of revenge out of the watery concept of whinging at one’s boss from afar.

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