Missing Offaly woman remembered

Mon, Jul 16, 2012, 01:00

HUNDREDS OF people attended an emotionally charged remembrance walk for missing Co Offaly woman Fiona Pender in Tullamore yesterday.

The 25-year-old hairdresser and part-time model was seven months pregnant when her family last saw her at her apartment on Church Street in Tullamore on August 22nd, 1996.

Just over a year before her disappearance, Fiona’s brother Mark had been killed in a motorcycle incident. Her father, Seán, took his own life in 2000, a death her mother, Josephine, attributes to his heartbreak over the loss of his children.

Josephine and Fiona’s remaining brother, John, were joined by other families of the missing, including Philip Cairns’s mother and relatives of Imelda Keenan and Mary Boyle.

The march was organised to celebrate what would have been Fiona’s 41st birthday and to campaign for a fresh investigation into her disappearance.

Led by St Colmcille’s pipe band, marchers observed a minute’s silence outside Fiona’s old apartment before stopping at Beverly’s Hair Salon, her former workplace.

Addressing the crowd, Fiona’s brother John said: “All we can do is appeal. We are at our wits’ end and I know that it would make our dreams come true to be able to just give Fiona a decent burial.”

Identifying a man he described as the chief suspect in Fiona’s disappearance, John summed up his emotions, saying: “I’m an absolute mix of rage and sadness.”

The man, who was known to Fiona, was questioned by gardaí but never charged. He has denied any involvement in her disappearance.

Josephine described her “years of a nightmare which could be put to an end” if someone could let her know where the remains of Fiona and her unborn baby are buried.

Local councillor Brendan Killeavy of Sinn Féin said: “It is something that never leaves this town. One of our own, that’s what she was and still is, is 16 years missing and we are still no further on.

“There are people out there that know what happened and they need to come forward . . . and put some sort of small bit of closure on this for the Pender family.”

Fr Shane Crombie said the large turnout was “a tremendous testimony to the great love and the great support that does exist in our community.”

According to Dermot Browne of missingpersons.ie, 10 people are reported missing in Ireland every day.

“Thankfully most are located in a short period of time. Unfortunately there is a small group of people whose lives will be affected forever,” he said.

Missingpersons.ieruns a confidential helpline at 1890-442552.