The family of a doctor who went missing 10 years ago have questioned the decision by gardaí to carry out a fresh search for her remains.

Dr Deirdre Donnelly O’Flaherty has not been seen since January 11, 2009, when her car was found at Kinnego beach, Co Donegal.

Last week, gardaí announced they would be conducting a search operation in the Milford area of the county, but no new evidence was uncovered.

The family of Dr O’Flaherty have now called for a meeting with the Garda investigation team and have queried the decision which led to the fresh search being carried out.

In a statement, the family also said they were “relieved” the ordeal of the search was over and added that the outcome was not in doubt.

“Notification that gardaí were going to carry out a land search for Deirdre was entirely unexpected, not least given that the finding by order of Judge Deeney at Belfast High Court on the January 12, 2012, that Deirdre had ‘gone into the water and drowned’ was supported by the oral evidence of the investigating Garda sergeant.

“As far as the families are aware there has not in fact been any ongoing search for Deirdre since at least that time,” they said.

“The families had only three days advance notice of the Garda excavations near Milford, Co Donegal, and therefore had little time to prepare for the consequences of the very public, national exposure of this story during the week.

Note

“Gardaí confirmed to the families at that time that the decision to conduct the excavation in a remote area over 50 miles (80km) from her last known whereabouts flowed from an anonymous note handed in to a Garda station in Co Monaghan in August 2017,” the statement added.

“This note apparently provided precise map co-ordinates for the location of Deirdre’s remains. The families have not seen this note and this information was not made public due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

“In their press release, gardaí stated that they had ‘found nothing to further the search’.

“Accordingly, the families have requested a meeting with the Garda investigation team to discuss a number of questions relating to the conduct, conclusions and consequences of this investigation.”

Last week’s operation in the Milford area – some 80km from where Dr O’Flaherty was last seen – involved members of the Donegal divisional search team, the Garda Technical Bureau, as well as local private contractors.

It began on Tuesday of last week, and lasted until that Friday, with no further evidence discovered in the four-day search.

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