Ireland's 'Vanishing Triangle'

ByABC News
June 9, 2006, 6:03 PM

June 9, 2006 — -- For more than a decade, there's been a deepening mystery around Dublin: a growing number of young women have disappeared. But finally, the investigations may be yielding some answers.

The frightening disappearances began in 1993, with American Annie McCarrick, a 26-year-old from upstate New York, who had gone to college in Ireland, returned their intent on absorbing the country's history and her family's heritage.

She shared an apartment with two female roommates in Sandymount, a quiet residential section of Dublin. In March 1993, Annie was eagerly awaiting a visit from her mother.

On Friday, March 26, just days before her mother was due to arrive, Annie didn't show up as expected to pick up her paycheck at work. On Saturday, when her friends arrived at her apartment for a previously arranged dinner party, there was no sign of Annie.

Annie's father, John McCarrick, said he knew immediately something was terribly wrong when her friends in Dublin called him to say they didn't know where Annie was. "She was always reaching out and touching someone. … She would never have gone a day without talking to someone. … We were very, very concerned," he said.

The McCarricks left immediately for Ireland, where the hunt for their daughterbecame one of the largest searches in Ireland's history.

In their fear and desperation, the family also turned to seasoned investigator Brian McCarthy, recommended by officials at the American Embassy.

"There were very difficult days, those days, to live with the McCarrick family and see day after day the anguish that they had, the terror of what they felt might have happened to their only child," McCarthy recalled.

The last thing anyone knows for sure about Annie McCarrick is that on the morning she disappeared, she'd run errands at the local bank and grocery store. What happened after that, police can only guess. One witness claims to have seen Annie later that day on a No. 44 city bus. The bus' route ends in the classic Irish small town of Enniskerry, where Annie frequently visited.

Witnesses next place Annie around 9 p.m. that night at Johnny Fox's pub, 3 miles outside Enniskerry, nestled at the base of the Wicklow Mountains. It's another spot stepped in Irish tradition and popular with both locals and tourists.

What makes the testimony of witnesses at Johnny Fox's more frightening is thefact that they say Annie, who had no apparent boyfriend at the time, was seen with an unidentified man. A police composite sketch of Annie's alleged companion was distributed around the country. And authorities began an exhaustive search of the countryside around Johnny Fox's.

Soon after they had arrived in Ireland, Nancy and John McCarrick saw firsthand the friendship and feelings their daughter had engendered. Still, it was small comfort on a day when police were searching for their daughter's body.

The McCarricks' dedication in the search for their daughter engendered respect and compassion all over Ireland -- particularly from families of other young women who had gone missing.

Collette McCann recalls watching the McCarricks' grief on her local news, not knowing she would soon be experiencing a similar tragedy, when her sister vanished.

"I remember seeing her father on the television in Ireland and I remember seeing the sorrow and the sadness and the anguish on that family's face. And I remember thinking to myself, 'God bless them.' I couldn't imagine anybody going through that. But then it was a very short 12 weeks later that we were going through the exact same thing with Eva," said McCann.

Her sister, Eva Brennan, vanished after she left a family gathering on a Sunday afternoon.

"I felt despair as to what could have happened to these girls. Annie was missing, and Eva Brennan went missing. To me, it was like a bad dream reoccurring," investigator McCarthy said.

And as it turned out, the nightmare was only beginning.Just months after Annie McCarrick vanished from Dublin, there was another case from the Irish suburbs that would turn out to have disturbing similarities to Annie's.

At first, no one made a connection, and no one suspected that thenumber of missing women would continue to grow.