The Return of the Dalkey Baby

dalkey_castle.jpgFor several weeks in the summer of 2005, the Irish media indulged itself in a feeding frenzy of tabloid-like hysteria surounding the gruesome story of ‘Niamh’ (now identified as ‘Cynthia Owen’) who claimed that she had been the victim of abuse by an organised cabal of child-molesters. This resulted in her becoming pregnant whilst still a child herself – a crime allegedly faciliated by her parents. ‘Niamh’ then claimed to have watched as her new-born infant was stabbed to death with a knitting needle.

In the wake of the 7/7 bombings in London, the Dalkey Baby story dropped off the main media’s radar – the last we heard being that an excavation (looking for the remains of an infant) in a Dublin garden, had revealed nothing. But, one year later, the story is back.
False memory syndrome
The full details of Dalkey Baby story are covered in detail on in an original article from 2005. The key thing to note is that the claims at the heart of Cynthia Owen’s story would appear to stem from ‘memories’ which were unearthed during ‘regression therapy’ in England. And as anyone who knows anything about the history of child-abuse hysteria will know, regression therapy is, to be quite blunt, a complete crock. More than that, it is profoudly dangerous crock, which has led to the destruction of countless homes, families and lives.
The ‘memories’ which emerge from this therapy are, according to mainstream science, total bunkum – borne of what is now routinely referred to as ‘False memory syndrome’. False memory syndrome is classified, by Dr. John F. Kihlstrom, professor of psychology at Yale University as follows:

“a condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of traumatic experience which is objectively false but in which the person strongly believes. Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have memories that are inaccurate. Rather, the syndrome may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual’s entire personality and lifestyle, in turn disrupting all sorts of other adaptive behavior. The analogy to personality disorder is intentional. False Memory Syndrome is especially destructive because the person assiduously avoids confrontation with any evidence that might challenge the memory. Thus it takes on a life of its own, encapsulated and resistant to correction. The person may become so focused on memory that he or she may be effectively distracted from coping with the real problems in his or her life.”

New focus
This time the focus is not on the remains of the child alleged to have been buried in the Dun Laoghaire garden, but on the other infant that was found in Lee’s Lane in Dun Laoghaire on April 4, 1973. The remains of this child were subsequently buried in a large grave in the Little Angels plot in Glasnevin cemetery. And now, the Dublin County Coroner, Dr Kieran Geraghty, has suggested that an exhumation should take place to allow for DNA testing. Dr. Geraghty wrote to the Irish Justice Minister, Michael McDowell to ask for the exhumation two weeks ago. That said, Dr. Geraghty was at pains to point out that the exhumation would be deeply problematic.
And he was not the only one to have reservations:

‘The voluntary, independent body that owns and operates Glasnevin cemetery, the Dublin Cemeteries Committee, said it did not support the exhumation and neither would most of the families with infants buried at the plot. Some 50,000 babies are buried there.
“We would not be in favour of this because of the disturbance. We have had a lot of upset and irate people on the phone to us today. I would say they would be horrified,” committee chief executive George McCullough said yesterday.
“There has been no indication that this was in the pipeline. We have been helping the Garda and archaeologists in the past year with their investigation and thought they had come to the conclusion that it was not feasible.”
Mr McCullough said they knew exactly which grave the infant was buried in but that “hundreds” of other infants might be disturbed in an attempt to reach this grave. There are 20-25 infants buried in each grave.’

The following day, the 8th of June, the press reported that Minister McDowell was going to reject the request for an exhumation.

‘It is expected that the request will be refused on ethical grounds as hundreds of bodies of babies have been buried in that section of the graveyard.
The exhumation was described last night by one expert as “a logistical nightmare”. He said it would be impossible to get the permission of the parents of all of the other babies who had been buried there.
“There are ethical issues involved and the fresh pain that would be caused to grieving parents has to be taken into account. “It is also far from certain that a search of the plot would provide evidence that would seriously advance the investigation,” he added.’

The pretence of science
Whilst I have nothing but sympathy for Cynthia Owen (she has, quite clearly, suffered at length over this issue – whatever the truth of it) it’s quite breath-taking that one year after the initial hullabaloo, in which time coroners, journalists, policemen and lawyers have had an abundance of time to reflect on and research this issue, we find ourselves back where we started: a three-ring media circus based on the unsubstantiated accusations of a woman whose memories of abuse stem from a dangerous branch of charlatanry; carrried out by con-men, hucksters and new-age sensationalists masquerading under the pretence of science.
The case of the Dalkey Baby and the suffering of the Owen family is upsetting in the extreme. But this should not deter those in the business of reporting ‘the news’ (is such a term can even be used thse days) to observe the simple fact that the entire episode has been borne of an utterly discredited, pseudo-scientific pile of nonsense. Once again, we must sadly observe, Irish journalists have manifestly failed in doing their jobs. And it’s not like we’re talking about a need for extensive research here: a simple google search would have told the truth of this.
But as we learned long ago, from the now notorious incident on where forum posters manufactured a fabricated news story about Silvio Berlusconi, which was printed by the Irish Independent, Irish journalism is in a shambolic state. In an age when newspapers no longer seem to care for reporting the news, but concentrate rather on providing an audience to sell to advertisers, with never-ending deadlines driving an industry to parrot press-release after press-release, perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves if most broadsheets have any right to claim that they continue to employ ‘journalists’ at all.
Original piece from 2005
‘Mother’ of dead baby welcomes move to exhume
Coroner seeks exhumation of baby’s remains
McDowell will reject request to exhume stabbed baby
False Memory Syndrome
Anyone interested in False Memory Syndrome is urged to read the following two articles by Prof. Chris French:
Families are still living the nightmare of false memories of sexual abuse
Church must accept reality of false memories of childhood sexual abuse

Damien DeBarra was born in the late 20th century and grew up in Dublin, Ireland. He now lives in London, England where he shares a house with four laptops, three bikes and a large collection of chairs.


  1. You can take false memory syndrome and stuff it up your arse – My ‘real’ and proper memory was going to the same school as Cindy and only now I feel (even though I was only age nine/ten I should have goddam done something (as Mrs Warren, our teacher, said) This child was horribly abused – and the worst of it was – that Mother Doherty smacked Cynthia around the place for being absent (while the poor child was probably pregnant) So fuck your stupid theories – I was there

  2. Thanks Miriam – that’s just the sort of cheerful comment I’ve come to expect from people defending regression therapy. Sorry if the tone of the article upset you.
    I’m not debating that the unfortunate lady in question may have been beaten by school teachers (this was not an unusual event in Ireland, as I know myself); the piece above questions the memories of ritualised abuse which she claims she has of her home life – which (according to media reports) were brought to prominence by ‘regression therapy’ – a ‘therapy’ which has been denounced by the Royal College of Psychiatrists:
    “Psychiatrists are advised to avoid engaging in any “memory recovery techniques” which are based upon the expectation of past sexual abuse of which the patient has no memory. Such…techniques may include drug-mediated interviews [“truth serum”], hypnosis, regression therapies, guided imagery, “body memories,” literal dream interpretation, and journaling. There is no evidence that the use of consciousness-altering techniques, such as drug-mediated interviews or hypnosis, can reveal or accurately elaborate factual information about any past experiences, including sexual abuse.” From Wikipedia.
    You might also have a look at the work of Doctor Ian Stevenson. Now, Stevenson spent many years operating in areas of ‘science’ which undoubtedly raised the eyebrows of a few colleagues – concentrating as he largely did in trying to build a body of evidence to prove the veracity of reincarnation. But even he, a man with a *very* open mind, expressed concerns about regression therapy.
    He said: ‘…nearly all such hypnotically evoked “previous personalities” are entirely imaginary just as are the contents of most dreams. They may include some accurate historical details, but these are usually derived from information the subject has acquired normally through reading, radio and television programs, or other sources. The subject may not remember where he obtained the information included, but sometimes this can be brought out in other sessions with hypnosis designed to search for the sources of the information used in making up the “previous personality.” Experiments by E. Zolik and by R. Kampman and R. Hirvenoja have demonstrated this phenomenon.’

  3. I am cindy sister i was in the house on 3/4/73 and there was no baby born there .I LIVED THERE UNTIL 1975.

  4. Why do people still believe this story, when the Police have dug up the back garden where Cindy said another baby was buried? It took the Police seven days or more to do this and they found nothing. Are people in Ireland still that stupid?. Cindy is only doing this for her own gain. She’s a very clever person and is going to end up a very wealthy woman. And, if she gets away with it, I’ll be the first to shake her hand. Ever do she has caused a lot of hurt and pain for other people. I was never pimped out by my father or my grandmother. May God forgive her for her lies.

  5. my sister francies went down 2 with draw her statments at this late stage..this even confuses me more..why would she do this.? is she worried she might be called 2 court..if our case go ahead

  6. hi barry thank u for ur comments..on our case..they realy help me thru the terrible times i have gone thru over the years..u help to keep me going..and to belive the truth would come out in the been a very hard struggle to keep going.. thing seen to be working out for me now i have a very good legil team behind me now i thank u again for giving me the strenth to keep going..catherine

  7. Are you people seriously suggesting that every person who was called to give evidence at the Inquest were subjects of regression therapy….
    It had in fact been clarified that Cynthia Owen had never been the subject of regression therapy.
    The fact that many people (including members of her family) corroborated her version of events is in itself justification.
    Catherine, I sincerely hope that the State pursue you for its legal costs when you lose your case

  8. Anonymous,
    I’m unaware of any such inquest. Can you inform us when it was held, where and what the findings are? If, as you say, family members corroborated what Cynthia Owen said, I would imagine that prosecutions would have arisen. We are, after all, talking about allegations of the murder of an infant here. I’m also unaware of any such prosecutions.

  9. The Inquest was held in February 2007 by Coroner Dr. Kieran Geraghty, held in The Plaza Hotel in Tallaght, wherein a Jury, unanimously, returned a verdict that Cynthia Owen was the mother of the infant found in a lane way in Dun Laoghaire. An Open Verdict was recorded by the Jury as a result of a Direction given to them. They could not record a verdict of unlawful killing simply because the 1962 Coroner’s Act does not allow an Inquest to concern itself with civil or criminal liability. The finding of the Inquest that the child died on the 4th April 1973 at the Murphy’s family home in Dalkey, County Dublin.

  10. Thankyou for the details. Most interesting.
    A further question if you don’t mind: were the remains of the infant found in the Dun Laoghaire laneway recovered and examined at the time of the inquest? And if so, how come this never got the press attention it deserved? Rather baffling.

  11. The exhumation requested was not granted by the then Minister for Justice. The baby was buried in the Holy Angels plot in Glasnevin. It was for this reason the exhumation was not granted

  12. That was what I had understood too. The thing is I don’t understand how the tribunal could have established that the child was hers without an exhumation.

  13. It was not a tribunal but in fact a Jury at an Inquest. They came to this conclusion based on evidence presented at the Inquest and on the balance of probabilities

  14. One last question, if you’ll humour me further. The allegations that Cynthia had undergone ‘regression therapy’ (as was widely reported in the press at the time of the original story) – where did these come from?
    Can you tell us a bit more (if you can that is) about how Cynthia came to raise the issue when she did?
    Thanks again.

  15. most of the so called witness statements were from (sindy her birth name)..friends they dident even no my family in 1973..the inquest was a public attack on my family..why did the coroner allowed these statements in 2 the inquest..i ask my self..why did the dpp turn down the case 5 times? as 4 the anonymous comments if u dont want 2 be non dont get involved..i had enought pain i have lost 5 menbers of my family ..thrue all the lies that been told ..i have payed the price for all this already ..i pay again if i have 2 there no blood on my hands..i was there i no these thing did not happen..and i like 2 no who appointed the coroner juge and jury un fair justice i call it

  16. You’d like to know who appointed the coroner judge and jury????
    Do you not understand the point of an Inquest?
    The Coroner’s purpose is to estblish how someone died. In Cynthia’s baby’s case he did just that. He estblished that the baby died as a result of stab wounds in your family home.
    The 5 family members you refer too, three died of causes unrelated to the case and the other two committed suicide because of the abuse they had suffered. That in itself is back up to Cynthia’s story.

  17. the purpose of the inquest was 2 identy the infant and it mother ..that still has not been done..they knew back in 1973 how the infant died..and cause of death..

  18. The Inquest did identify the infant (Noeleen Murphy) and her mother (Cynthia Owen). It may have been obvious back in 1973 how the baby died and an inquest was to be held back in 1973 but postposed and re-opened which lead to the Inquest Findings above. The Inquest is held to formally confirm the cause of death, etc.

  19. just saw the late late show, this case just seems to fritzl-like, i guess its just too much for anyone to take responsibility for in a country steeped in years of horrendous abuse, my heart goes out to this woman. with so many people accountable, of course there will be repugnance and the snap of refusals to accept. i wont be able to read the book as it is just such a sad story, but i was moved by this womans honest and dignified appearance. i wish her well with the rest of her life.

  20. Well I do believe that this awful evil act happened just look at all the abused children in Ireland that were raped by members of the clergy no one believe them at first, they were called liars and now they admit that this happened so what do you have to say about that. It took the victims years to continue to unite and to speak out against the church about the reality of the abuse that took place over a number of years. It took those Victims years to be heard and the Church has never paid for their crimes. Cynthia should be giving support from the public what is wrong with people hiding behind close doors and pretending that this not happening OMG is not the answer either it makes me so mad the sad thing Cynthia is not the only victim and she will not be the last it scares me to death that we cannot protect our children and that a Paedophile ring lingers free in Dublin still. We need to take action against these people which should be tagged and imprisoned for life like the dogs they are – (dogs too nice of word to use). Are you people watching too much T.V. these crimes continue today only recently a husband and wife were arrested in Galway for neglect and child abuse. Ireland in the 80’s was not supportive of children or married woman if they were being physically abused and raped the wife would be told solve it with the husband no groups or support for those victims either. Ireland is very behind and need to get with the program fast before it’s too late.
    No matter how disturbed a person mind is you couldn’t think this stuff up people are so quick to jump the gun and say it’s the media exploiting the situation but that’s not the reality and you know it. It be very easy to move the body if they felt one day the truth will come out they are evil and I have nothing but love and support for Cynthia I hope she gets the justice one day. Her parents will answer to God above for their Haynes crimes they committed in life. Cynthia is a strong soul and I admire her to keep fighting and tell her story and I hope the public regardless if they do or don’t believe it stop hating and look at the evidence the baby was found stabbed to death and theirs no way you read a newspaper at the age of 11yrs in fairness I know I never did. I hope Cynthia realise people do believe her and will support her no matter what. Look around the road you live we all know someone who has being abused that the sad thing about Ireland. We are no longer known for music and culture but for abuse and scandal I hope the next generation of adults will make a change to our economy. Our legal system needs to change and protect young minors and men and woman rape is rape and instead of grunting to it and expecting someone just to get over the ordeal you never suffered in life and that’s great but you don’t understand. I wish Cynthia happiness and wish her the best with her life xoxo

  21. Catherine,
    My dear friend Theresa Murphy died by suicide on the 23/02/05,
    prior to her death (as you well know) she somehow found the courage to compose a 37 page suicide letter detailing the horrific sexual abuse, which she suffered as a child at the hands of your father, her grand father.
    However difficult it may be for you to admit the horrors of what went on in your childhood home, do not dare to call my friend, who is now dead as a result of what went on in Whites Villas, a liar.
    As you know, the incest in your family has claimed a number of lives over the years and regardless of whether you are prepared to admit it or not, your blatant lies regarding the litany of abuse suffered at the hands of your parents makes you every bit as guilty as your evil parents.
    Miriam Moran

  22. This story is so so sad. The other abusers need to named. Why should their identities be kept quiet.

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