Much concern over missing woman

Tue, Oct 30, 2012, 00:00

Gardaí have become “extremely concerned” for the welfare of a 30-year-old pregnant woman who disappeared in Co Laois last Thursday.

A full-time live-in nanny, Aoife Phelan was last seen leaving a friend’s house at Colliers View in Portlaoise at 8.10pm. She is four months pregnant.

Gardaí have carried out an extensive examination of her phone, bank accounts and social media accounts and say there has been no activity on any of them since last Thursday.

Garda sources said they were now fearful she had met with foul play and believe “the solving of her disappearance is within Portlaoise”.

At a media briefing in the town this evening to urge the public to aid the Garda investigation, Supt Yvonne Lundon described Ms Phelan’s disappearance as “totally out of character”.

On the day she vanished, Ms Phelan 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.

The Irish Times understands she received a number of texts and may have left her friend’s house to meet somebody on the basis of those messages. It is believed she may have travelled to Mountmellick or in that direction.

When the family she worked for realised she had not returned to their house by Friday morning they contacted the missing woman's parents. They live in Cashel, Ballyroan, about 8km from Portlaoise.

She was then reported missing and gardaí made a number of public appeals for information on her whereabouts via the media over the bank holiday weekend.

While the case is still being treated as a missing person’s investigation, the holding of a media briefing yesterday and the Garda’s searching of lands in the Portlaoise and Mountmellick areas represents an escalation in the inquiry and the concerns for her safety.

Garda sources said Ms Phelan had told her family she was four months pregnant and appeared to be working happily in recent weeks, exhibiting no signs she was in any way distressed.

“We’re told she has never done anything like this before and yet she appears to have just vanished,” said one Garda source.

Supt Lundon did not comment on any of the information that may have been gleaned by the Garda investigation to date, but confirmed concerns had significantly increased.

“Obviously her parents and friends are extremely concerned about her welfare and we at An Garda Síochána are also concerned about her welfare and endorse those opinions,” she said.

Meanwhile, the missing woman’s mother, Betty Phelan made an emotional appeal on Midlands 103 radio for any information that might help find her daughter.

“She’s a very bubbly person and it is totally out of character for Aoife not to have been in contact with some of her family so we are very, very concerned at the moment. Aoife, if you are out there somewhere please contact us.”

She said her daughter, who is one of 12 children, was fine before her disappearance.

“She was in good humour, no sign of distress or anything like that. We are all over the place at the moment. We aren’t sleeping, we are not eating and it’s just unreal."