A second Kilkenny arrest in Kerry cold case disappearance

A second Kilkenny arrest in Kerry cold case disappearance
Sean Keane

The focus of an inquiry into the kidnap and suspected murder of a man in south Kerry in 1991 has once again switched to Kilkenny.

Mr Charles Brooke Pickard - a father of four - missing since April 26 1991 when he was last seen being bundled into his van by five masked and armed men at White Strand near his home in Castlecove, Derrynane on the southern tip of Kerry.

Last Wednesday evening Gardaí arrested a 67-year-old Belfast man in Kilkenny as part of their ongoing investigation into the 25-year-old unsolved case.

The man - who is linked to the northern Irish crime gang suspected of kidnapping Mr Pickard - is now based in northern Ireland but had previously lived in the Kilkenny area.

A Garda source said the arrest - the first in the case since 1991 - was part of a planned operation launched after they learned the man had recently returned to this jurisdiction after a lengthy absence.

According to gardaí he was detained in relation to a suspected firearms offence connected with the disappearance. He was detained at Killarney Garda Station and questioned for two days before being released without charge on Friday evening. A file on the matter is being prepared for the DPP.

The individual arrested in Kilkenny is not the former INLA terrorist who has been the prime suspect in the case since the early 1990s and who is believed to have led the kidnap gang.

It is thought the gang targeted Mr Pickard as they mistakenly believed he was in possession of a large amount of money linked to a drug deal that had taken place in the area shortly before.

Senior Garda sources said last week's arrest - which they described as a major breakthrough in the investigation - was the result of new information provided following a renewed appeal last May. The public appeal also led to an unsuccessful three-week search for Mr Pickard's remains near Waterville, county Kerry last September.

Last Wednesday's arrest is not the first time Kilkenny has featured in the investigation. A distinctive orange Toyota that the gang used in the kidnapping - which was found with Mr Pickard's burnt out van near Shronaloughnane three weeks after he disappeared - was stolen in Kilkenny a few days before the kidnap.

In May 1991 Gardaí arrested and questioned a man from the Castlecomer area of Kilkenny in relation to the Pickard case.

The northern Irish man - who was linked at the time to paramilitary and criminal activity - was questioned for a number of days and eventually released without charge.

The PSNI and several police forces in Britain are assisting gardaí, who say they are following a number of significant new leads in the case.