By David Young, Press Association
The families of a doctor who went missing a decade ago have questioned a gardai decision to undertake a major dig for her remains.
Former GP and mother of three Deirdre Donnelly O'Flaherty has not been seen since January 11 2009, when her car was found at Kinnego beach, Co Donegal.
In a shock development, gardai last week commenced an excavation on land in Milford, Co Donegal - 50 miles from the place of her disappearance.
The 46-year-old Strabane-based doctor had been staying with her family at a holiday home when she went missing.
The dig concluded on Friday, with gardai announcing that nothing linked to the investigation had been found.
The excavation had been ordered after gardai apparently received information claiming to identify the whereabouts of the Co Tyrone doctor's remains in an anonymous note handed in to a Garda station in Co Monaghan.
In 2012, a judge in Belfast formally declared that Mrs Donnelly O'Flaherty, who suffered from depression, had drowned after entering the sea.
The Donnelly and O'Flaherty families have now issued a joint statement expressing concerns about the Garda operation.
(Dr. Deirdre O'Flaherty)
They described the last week as an "ordeal", and have asked to meet the officers involved in the operation in a bid for answers.
"The close and extended families of Dr Deirdre Donnelly O'Flaherty wish to express their heartfelt gratitude for the many kind and thoughtful messages of support which they have received over the course of what has been a tumultuous and distressing week leading up to the 10th anniversary of Deirdre's disappearance on the 11th of January 2009, " they stated.
"The families are relieved only because this ordeal is over although in our view, the outcome was not in doubt.
"Notification that Gardai 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 12th of January 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.
"The families had only three days' advance notice of the Gardai excavations near Milford, County Donegal and therefore had little time to prepare for the consequences of the very public, national exposure of this story during the week.
"Gardai confirmed to the families at that time that the decision to conduct the excavation in a remote area over fifty miles from her last known whereabouts flowed from an anonymous note handed in to a Garda station in County Monaghan in August 2017. 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 yesterday Gardai stated that they had 'found nothing to further the search'.
"Accordingly, the families have requested a meeting with the Gardai investigation team to discuss a number of questions relating to the conduct, conclusions and consequences of this investigation."