Disappearance of Mary Flanagan

Mary Flanagan was a London teenager who disappeared from her West Ham home on New Year's Eve, 1959. The BBC described her case as "the oldest open case on the books of the Metropolitan Police."[1][note 1]

Mary Flanagan from a family photograph

Background edit

Flanagan was born in London on 9 June 1943 into a Catholic family of Irish descent. She had two sisters, Eileen and Brenda, and a brother, Kevin. The family lived at Wallace Road, E15 at the time of her disappearance.[3] Her father's family was from Pass, County Meath[4] and her mother was also called Mary.[5] She went to Holbrook Road Secondary School,[3] and at the time of her disappearance she was working at the large Tate & Lyle sugar refinery in Silvertown. She also occasionally worked at an opticians in Stratford, as well as volunteering with the Blind Association.[3]

Events prior to the disappearance edit

Members of her family, discussing her disappearance in 2013, suggested that Flanagan may have eloped with a man she had been seen with frequently in the last few weeks of 1959. He was supposedly another Irish immigrant and may have worked on the merchant navy, although police say they have never been able to trace such a man.[3] He was called Tom, and undoubtedly existed under one name or another, as her father had introduced him to his daughter; the latter was in his early twenties at that time.

She was on the police files and on their noticeboard until she was 21. Then they told us as she had reached the age of consent. If she was found they couldn't force her to come home.[6]

Brenda Harris née Flanagan speaking to the BBC.

He may have been Mary's fiancé.[4] Information on him is sparse, however, and he has also been described as being an Irish labourer;[2] even his surname is uncertain. He is most commonly referred to as McGinty,[7] although it could also have been McEntee or even McGuinness.[7]The Merchant Navy had no record of a Tom McGinty working in their service.[4]

Her family have suggested that she could have been pregnant, and disappeared because of that,[2] as it would have been "a major thing for a 16-year-old Catholic to tell her parents" according to contemporary social norms.[6] One of Mary Flanagan's last known interactions with her boyfriend was later reported by her sister Brenda as being a bitter argument. This had been caused by Mary’s discovery that, although McGinty claimed to be living with his landlady, he actually lived with his mother. This lie, said Brenda, had distressed Mary sufficiently to cause her to oversleep on the morning of the 31 December.[4] This followed an argument, with "raised voices", between Mary, McGinty and Mr Flanagan, following which "Mary went to bed in tears, telling her sisters she planned to end the relationship" with McGinty.[5]

Disappearance edit

On the day of her disappearance she was due to attend her employer's New Year's Eve party, which was held annually in the Silvertown plant. The last known sighting of her was approaching West Ham tube station.[3]

Apart from interviewing Mary’s family, officers in the 60s would have relied on old-fashioned policing to find her including putting up posters around the community, speaking to her family and friends, and roaming the streets with her picture.[3]

The following day, her family realised she had not come home the preceding evening, and Mr. and Mrs. Flanagan visited the sugar refinery in search of information. In a curious twist, they were informed that she had actually been absent from work for the previous fortnight.[2] For their part, Tate and Lyle had assumed that she was off sick at the time.[5] A search of the local area was made by both locals and the police, and the local papers provided some publicity for the case; however, it is likely to have been seen as merely a "typical teenage runaway" of the time.[2]

Case re-opened, 2013 edit

Police continued to check the National Insurance database, in 1983 and in subsequent years, but reported that her number has never been used for employment purposes since.[2] In 2013, on her seventieth birthday, the Metropolitan Police and[2] the local Missing Persons Unit in Newham re-opened her case for examination. The investigating officer described the case as a "complete one-off," and it has been used as an example of the changes that policing methods have undergone over subsequent years:[3] from knocking on doors in the community in 1960s, to accessing Facebook profiles in the 2000s.[2] Police particularly appealed for information on Tom McGinty.[8] In January 2017, the charity Missing People commissioned a new age progressed image of Mary from UK forensic artist Tim Widden.[1][note 2]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ As of 18 December 2013, the BBC reported that hers was "the oldest open case on the books of the Metropolitan Police."[2]
  2. ^ As of 18 December 2013, the BBC reported that hers was "the oldest open case on the books of the Metropolitan Police."[2]

References edit

  1. ^ a b Silverman 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Reed & Eley 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g York 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d O'Carroll, Lisa. "Family of Irish woman missing since 1959 believe she may still be alive". No. 1 June 2013. The Irish Times.
  5. ^ a b c Blunden 2013.
  6. ^ a b BBC & 7 June 2013.
  7. ^ a b O'Carroll 2013.
  8. ^ BBC & 31 May 2013.

Bibliography edit