1. ITV Report

Saoirse Smyth disappearance inquiry reopened

The PSNI and Gardai are involved in the searches. Credit: PSNI

A dig is underway in Co Louth for the remains of a west Belfast woman who vanished almost two and a half years ago.

Saoirse Smyth, who was 28 when she went missing, was last seen in Belfast in April 2017.

It’s believed that day she traveled just across the border to Omeath, Co Louth.

The search operation is being conducted jointly between the PSNI and Gardai.

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána said: "Today, Monday 16 September 2019, An Garda Síochána have commenced a search in a forested area in Omeath, Co Louth.

"The search is being conducted by detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, supported by the Louth Divisional Search Team, Garda Technical Bureau, specialist forensic archaeologist and specialist cadaver search dogs.

"Investigators from the Police Service of Northern Ireland will also be assisting."

In July last year, UTV exclusively revealed the investigation into Saoirse’s disappearance had been upgraded to a murder inquiry.

Police say Saoirse, who battled drug addiction most of her life, was vulnerable and likely to have been exploited by others in the criminal underworld.

Her family fear her addiction may have in some way cost her her life.

In an emotional interview with UTV at the time her grandmother Vera, who raised Saoirse from the age of four following the death of her own mother, said: “No one deserves this.

"She was only a girl, she was 28, she didn’t deserve that life, didn’t deserve that death. They’ve taken away my granddaughter, they’ve taken part of my life."

Two people, a man and woman, have previously been questioned by detectives and released on bail.

A PSNI statement said: “Saoirse was last seen in the Belfast area on 11 April 2017 and I believe she returned to Omeath, where she was living at the time, later that day.

"Since her disappearance there has been no contact with family or friends which is highly unusual.

“Today Police are making an appeal for information about the circumstances leading to Saoirse’s disappearance and murder.

"We are particularly interested in speaking with anyone who had seen Saoirse or was in contact with her since January 2017."