Lake search for missing Laois woman

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

Gardaí investigating the disappearance of Co Laois woman Aoife Phelan have been searching a lake close to the spot she was last seen last Thursday night.

Members of the Garda Water Unit have been diving in the small body of water at Kilminchy, Portlaoise, as part of the wider Garda effort to trace the 30-year-old, who had told family she is four months pregnant.

The au pair from Cashel, Ballyronan, around 8km from Portlaoise, was last seen just after 8pm last Thursday when she left a friend’s house at Colliers View in Portlaoise.

While Garda sources said they have no evidence to suggest Ms Phelan has met with foul play, some sources said this possibility has not been ruled out.

Gardaí have spoken to a number of her friends and family in an attempt to build a picture of her character and habits.

Lands around Portlaoise and in Mountmellick, where it is believed she may have been at some time last Thursday, have also been searched but have as yet yielded nothing.

An examination of Ms Phelan’s phone records, bank account and Facebook account show no activity since last Thursday night.

The missing woman lives with a family in Portlaoise for whom she works as an au pair. She often stays with her parents at weekends.

When the family she lives with realised last Friday morning she had not slept at the house overnight they contacted her parents. When by early evening on Friday she had not turned up she was reported missing.

Gardaí made a number of appeals through the media over the bank holiday weekend seeking information from the public that might help locate Ms Phelan.

With no sightings of her since last Thursday evening, the Garda investigation has escalated with land and water searches. A media briefing was also held in Portlaoise last night to urge anyone with information to come forward.

Both gardaí and Ms Phelan’s family have described her disappearance as out of character and have expressed heightening fears for her safety. Both have said she was working happily in the period up to last week and did not seem distressed or depressed.

On the day she disappeared she left work in Portlaoise at 6.15pm and met a friend by arrangement on the Borris Road. She travelled to her friend’s house at Colliers View, but left at 8.10pm.