People go missing every year across the globe. They either die in the wilderness due to injury or intentionally, people will flee and start life as someone new, never to be heard from again. Unfortunately, people also go missing because of murder.
What should a community think or feel when not just one person goes missing from an area but eight people? Is it a serial killer, trafficking, or suicide? Why are these people here one moment and gone the next?
Those questions people in Ireland’s Vanishing Triangle have been trying to answer for decades. What happened to eight women, and why haven’t they been found yet?
The Vanishing Triangle
The Vanishing Triangle was a term coined by the media to refer to several disappearances of women in Ireland in the mid to late 1990s. The women were all seen by witnesses, but they somehow vanished into thin air.
At every “crime scene,” the Gardaí (Ireland’s police force) found zero evidence. Some believe the disappearances of eight women were the work of a serial killer or serial killers. All the missing disappeared within an 80-mile (129 km) radius of Dublin.
On a map, the last known locations of the women form a sort of wonky triangle, which is why this series of disappearances is called the ”Vanishing Triangle”. The unsettling name, lack of evidence, and suspects aren’t the only unknown factors in the Vanishing Triangle.
The Gardaí know that many of the eight missing women in the Vanishing Triangle had some things in common. All victims disappeared without a trace, and each woman was reported to be in good spirits and acting normal when last seen; they had friends and family in Dublin and nearby counties.
No bodies have ever been found. Many reports emphasize that another aspect of the victimology is that victims ranged in age from 17 to 39, and all “appeared young and attractive.”
The Order of Disappearances
Annie told her friends that she would be spending the day in the Wicklow Mountains, but she obviously set off late as she was seen at a bank at 3 pm on CCTV. Annie was seen again at 3:40 pm on the no. 44 bus, headed to Enniskerry Co Wicklow, seemingly to head on a hike.
Two friends who had been invited to Annie’s home for dinner on March 27 discovered Annie wasn’t in her apartment when they arrived. Her parents flew at once to Ireland from New York, but after six months of intense searching, they returned without their daughter. Her parents believe she is dead.
The next victim of the Vanishing Triangle was 39-year-old Eva Brennan from Rathgar, Co, Dublin, who went missing on July 25, 1993. That day, Eva had lunch at her parents’ home in Terenure, Dublin, and left after a minor argument broke out, but she was close to her family, so nobody worried.
Eva hadn’t called or spoken to her father, who began to worry after two days without hearing a word. After coming to her apartment and noticing no indication that Eva had been there recently, he went to the Gardaí to report her missing. Due to Eva’s age and her known mental health issues, the Gardaí were slow to start investigating when they declared that she was missing and any evidence was long gone.
Far from treating Eva as a missing person, the Gardaí assumed she had committed suicide. Her family does not believe Eva committed suicide. They said she would have written a note for the family first if she had.
The third disappearance tied to the Vanishing Triangle is that of 22-year-old Imelda Keenan on January 3, 1994. Imelda, who lived with her boyfriend southwest of Wicklow Mountain told him that she was headed to the Post Office, and was never seen again.
The disappearance of Imelda seemed fishy from the start. January 3rd was a bank holiday which meant the Post Office would be closed. On January 4, 1994, Imelda’s brother reported her missing but she had also failed to return to her hometown on December 23 as planned for Christmas and missed the holiday altogether.
Her boyfriend had not reported Imelda missing, and her purse and Christmas gifts for her family were found in their shared apartment. Gardaí questioned her boyfriend but cleared him of all suspicion. Similarly to the disappearance of Eva Brennan, the Gardaí labeled Imelda’s disappearance as unsuspicious at first.
The Numbers Keep Rising
The fourth woman associated with the Vanishing Triangle was 21-year-old JoJo Dullard from Callan, Kilkenny, who vanished on November 9, 1995. JoJo had recently moved to Kilkenny from Dublin but had to return to receive a final paycheck.
With several hours to kill before the bus back to Kilkenny, JoJo went to a pub, she appeared to have lost track of time and missed her bus to Kilkenny, stranding herself in Dublin. It is unknown why JoJo didn’t just spend the night in Dublin since Kilkenny was far from Dublin.
Instead, she took a bus to Naas, Kildare, which was 65 miles (105 km) away from her home. When she got off the bus, JoJo hitched a ride to Moone, where she made a call on a payphone to a friend around 11:30pm. While on the phone with her friend, JoJo quickly hung up after saying a car had pulled up near her. JoJo was never seen or heard from again.
The fifth victim of the Vanishing Triangle was 25-year-old Fiona Pender. She went missing on August 23, 1996. Fiona Pender was seven months pregnant when she was last seen by her boyfriend leaving their apartment that morning.
She disappeared and has not been seen or heard from since. In 2005, someone found a small wooden cross with “Fiona Pender ” on it in the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The Gardaí believe that she might be buried in the mountains, but she has yet to be found.
The sixth woman to disappear within the Vanishing Triangle was the youngest victim, 17-year-old Ciara Breen. Breen vanished on February 13, 1997, after she finished watching TV with her mom and went to bed around 12:25 am.
Breen’s mother got up around 90 minutes later at 2 am to use the bathroom and noticed Ciara was missing from her bed. Ciara’s friends told the Gardaí that Ciara, like many teenagers, would sneak out of her house at night.
The authorities discovered that a downstairs window was left open from the inside, Ciara brought nothing with her, and it looked as though she planned to return before morning.
A man named Liam Muller, who lived on the same street as Ciara and always tried to talk to her and her friends, was suspected and arrested twice for her disappearance in 1999 and again in 2015 but was never charged. Muller died in police custody at the age of 55 in 2017.
The seventh victim of the Vanishing Triangle was 19-year-old Fiona Sinnott, who disappeared on February 8, 1998. Fiona was a young mom and had an 11-month-old daughter together, and she lived with the baby’s father, Sean Carroll.
Fiona was escorted home by Carroll from a pub where she had a night out with some friends. Carroll said he slept on the couch and was picked up in the morning by his mom, who was looking after the baby and played with his daughter in his mother’s home. Fiona was gone when Carroll returned home.
The Gardaí noticed something odd when they searched the apartment. There was nothing found in the apartment that belonged to Fiona or her daughter. Neighbors knew the house was sometimes messy; it happens when you have a young baby.
A farmer came forward to say he found several garbage bags full of clothes in his field, and Fiona’s name was on some of the items in the bag. He burnt the bags, having no clue the bags contained evidence. People used to dump garbage on the farmland, and he assumed that was the situation he came upon.
The final woman to go missing in the Vanishing Triangle was 18-year-old Deirdre Jacob on July 28, 1998. Deirdre was seen walking back from town to her parent’s house, where she was staying while on school holiday.
Several motorists who passed the woman before she disappeared said they saw her across the street from her parent’s driveway. In broad daylight, a woman vanished and was never heard from again. She was just gone.
Suspects and Serial Killers
The Gardaí suspected Larry Murphy, a convicted rapist, may be responsible for the disappearances of Deirdre Jacob, JoJo Dullard, and Annie McCarrick. All three women were close to an area where Murphy lived at the time.
Murphy was sent to jail in 2001 for the kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder of a woman in 2000. Two hunters in the Wicklow Mountains happened to pass by and stepped in to save the woman; Murphy was said to have been strangling her when the hunters arrived.
Larry Murphy claims he has nothing to do with the Vanishing Triangle, and there is no solid evidence or circumstantial evidence linking Murphy to the missing women. He is just a terrible person.
While many people, including members of the Gardaí, believe a serial killer or killers took the Vanishing Triangle women, it doesn’t seem the likely answer. According to the FBI, serial murder is a rare event, making up less than one percent of all murders committed in any given year.
The chance of a serial killer or killers being responsible for the Vanishing Triangle is a stretch. If multiple killers were working together, history has shown that the power dynamic between killers breaks apart, and they get caught. The women are all very different, which casts doubt on the serial killer idea.
Not all serial killers have a “type” of a victim they target exclusively, although TV and true crime media makes it sound that way. The Vanishing Triangle victims were short and tall, blond and brunette, and all had very different lifestyles.
Fiona Pender was heavily pregnant and 25 years old when she disappeared, and Fiona Sinnott was a mother who was 19. The women looked different as well. Some were teenagers, others were in their mid-late 20s, and Eva Brennan was 39.
Sources say that Eva looked ten years younger than her age but based on photos made public by the Gardaí, that statement seems flattering but perhaps untrue. The only similarity between the women was that they are described as having “slim” figures.
More doubt is cast on the serial killer theory when one remembers that the Gardaí have identified three suspects related to the disappearances of Fiona Pender, Ciara Breen, and Fiona Sinnott. The last person to see Fiona Pender was her boyfriend, it isn’t always the husband/boyfriend, but sometimes it is.
Liam Mullen was named a suspect in Ciara Breen’s disappearance but has since died. In the case of Fiona Sinnott, her child’s father is still the main suspect in her disappearance. The last person to claim to have seen Fiona was the father of her baby.
The fact that the Gardaí found zero items in the house belonging to Fiona or the baby is incredibly suspicious, as is the tidy house. The baby was at a grandparent’s house at the time, but even if Fiona ran away and started a new life, why on earth would she take all of her baby’s things and not take the baby with her?
It is worth noting that in 2006, Fiona’s child’s father, Sean Carroll, served time in jail for threatening to kill his cousin. Hopefully, one day, we can find the women from the Vanishing Triangle and bring them home to rest.
Top Image: Eight women went missing in the 1990s from the same area in Ireland dubbed the Vanishing Triangle. Source: Joerch / Adobe Stock.