The Family of Murdered Art Student Emer O’Loughlin, feel very Let Down, by the Gardai?

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Family of Irishwoman whose killer is still on the loose 17 years after her murder hit out at gardai

Nobody has been brought to justice for the slaying of art student Emer O’Loughlin who was found in the burned out shell of a caravan in Galway in April 2005

Emer O’Loughlin

The family of an Irish woman whose killer is still on the loose 17 years after her murder have hit out at gardai over their handling of the case.

Nobody has been brought to justice for the slaying of art student Emer O’Loughlin, 23, who was found in the burned out shell of a caravan in April 2005.

Emer’s badly charred body was discovered in the mobile home of Galway man John Griffin – who gardai believe faked his own death to escape prosecution.

Her father Johnny and her sister Pamela feature in a TG4 documentary about the case, Maru Inar Measc, which airs next week.

Pamela said: “Right from the beginning of the investigation the police referred to Emer as a death and not a murder.

“I started to question this. I was told that they didn’t know how she died… so we buried her without knowing the cause of death.

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“In 2008 when I spoke to the cold case squad and they said ‘we don’t know how she died’ I said ‘well bloody dig her up then… and find out’.”

John Griffin was long gone when Emer’s body was exhumed in 2010 and a second post mortem carried out by Deputy State Pathologist Michael Curtis.

Interpol’s most wanted John Griffin
The scene at Ballybornagh, Tubber, Co. Clare where human remains were found in a burnt out caravan on Sunday April 9 2005. They were subsequently identified as those of Emer O’Loughlin (Image: Philip Cloherty)

It established that she had been violently assaulted and stabbed in the neck with a long-bladed knife like a machete, and may have been dead before the fire started.

A long knife matching that description was found at the scene on the day of the fire on Friday April 8, 2005, in a remote spot on the edge of the Burren in Co Clare.

Pamela said: “She would have fought, she would have fought tooth and nail.

“I stood at the side of her grave on the day of the funeral and I was numb.

“All these years later I’m exactly the same, completely numb.

“It was very tough with my mum because she was just so confused with the trauma of it, she couldn’t understand why we couldn’t have an open coffin.”

Talented artist Emer was living in a mobile home with her long-term boyfriend on land owned by his family as the couple saved to build their own house.

The last time he saw her alive she was heading to neighbour John Griffin’s caravan to ask if she could charge her phone as they had no power that day.

Emer O’Loughlin

When gardai visited Griffin in the aftermath of the blaze he told them he had spent the previous night at the family home in Galway city.

His behaviour became erratic in the following days and he took a ferry to Inishmore where he barricaded himself into a clifftop fort and pelted people with stones.

Gardai took him to a psychiatric hospital, but he signed himself out five days later after shaving off his trademark dreadlocks and beard.

Griffin, who had previous convictions for assault and drugs, went back to Inishmore and his clothing was found in a neat pile on the cliffs – though his body was never found.

Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest but despite repeated reported sightings in Morocco, which has no extradition agreement with the EU, he has never been located.

Pamela said: “There was a lot of inaccurate information [about John Griffin]. They said he had a Celtic tattoo on his neck and it’s not, it’s an Egyptian tattoo.

“Basically what was said to me was he was such a trouble maker that he’s bound to get into trouble at some stage and come to light somewhere…

“Now I am deflated, beaten, it’s sort of 17 years of my life just constantly trying to keep her memory going.

“I’ve contacted just about every tattooist on the planet at this point to find out if anyone has covered over a throat tattoo.

“I feel we’re losing grasp really and we’re getting older and my huge fear is that she’s just going to fade into the distance and be forgotten, and we can’t do that.”

Emer’s broken-hearted dad Johnny added: “After [all these] years I’m wondering why, why wasn’t anything done?

“It’s always there, it never goes out of your head.

“The fact that he is still out there, there has been no closure whatsoever.

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