Philip Cairns has been missing for 20 years, but investigations are still ongoing. The 13-year-old vanished while walking back to school in south Dublin in October 1986. Every year, on the anniversary of his disappearance, his family make a fresh appeal for the public’s help in solving the case.

Philip’s younger brother Eoin was 11 when his only brother disappeared. He described how Philip was always in their minds:

“He was my best friend. We played soccer in our back garden, and with other boys on the road. Philip played hurling for a local team, and he loved to go fishing with my Dad.

“Philip is always there in the sense that he is not there. At Christmas, birthdays, weddings and other family occasions we think of how Philip should be with us.”

Police hope that advances in DNA will help them crack the case if they could have a positive lead. Six days after Philip’s disappearance, his schoolbag was found in a lane near his home, and advances in forensic scientist should enable them to know who handled the bag. It could have been a passer-by or another school child, the police – and Philip’s family – are desperate to know.

Unbelievably, sick hoaxers who knew of Philip’s disappearance have used Philip’s name when stopped by police in England and Wales. Other hoaxes have included a man pretending he had found Philip and was bringing him home.

But the family have never given up hope that one day the call will be genuine good news.

Like the McCann’s, Philip’s mother regularly goes to mass:

“I try to go to mass as often as I can. Without faith you wouldn’t be able to function or cope. It was something that you would always hope wouldn’t happen. You heard it happening to other people in other countries, but you don’t think it is going to happen to you.

“Although you would always be fearful that something would happen, like an accident, but I never thought for one minute that someone would kidnap Philip.”

In memory of those who are still missing.