Fiona Pender: Gardaí fear prosecution unlikely in case

Direction from DPP hard to obtain without interviewing suspect now abroad, say gardaí

Gardaí investigating the disappearance and presumed murder of Co Offaly woman Fiona Pender 20 years ago this week believe they know who killed her but fear he will never be charged.

The suspect lives abroad and could be extradited to Ireland only if Garda inquiries progress to the point that the Director of Public Prosecutions approved charges.

Garda sources said while a lot of new information has been gathered in recent years, it would be very difficult to secure a direction from the DPP to proceed with charges without first putting the information to the suspect.

“By law we can’t extradite anyone to just question them; you have to have the criminal charges waiting for the suspect before you’d get them back here,” said one source.


The same officer said while it was “not impossible” criminal charges may result without the new information having been put to the suspect it was “difficult to see how that would happen”.

Graham Dwyer case

While prosecutors were able to secure a guilty verdict 18 months ago against Graham Dwyer for the murder of Elaine O’Hara (36) despite failing to prove the cause of death, there have been no murder convictions in any case where a victim is assumed murdered but their remains never found.

Ms Pender (25) went missing from her flat at Church Street in Tullamore on the morning of August 23rd, 1996. The 20th anniversary of her disappearance falls tomorrow. The hairdresser and part-time model was seven months pregnant at the time of her disappearance. She had bought clothes for her baby and had shown no signs of planning to leave the area.

Sites searched

Gardaí believe she was killed by somebody known to her and her remains hidden to conceal the crime. A number of sites in the midlands have been searched and some lands excavated down the years.

There have been five arrests in the case, but no evidence has emerged on which to ground criminal charges.

Gardaí have received information about the presumed murder and location of Ms Pender’s remains that they believed warranted investigation.

In recent years, a woman told police in another country an Irish man she knew and who knew Ms Pender had implied in the heat of arguments that he had harmed her.

The Garda was contacted and the information from the woman was analysed by detectives in the Republic. Included was a precise location in the midlands the woman believed had a special significance for the man she suspected.

However, despite hopes being raised that new information may bring a breakthrough in the case, the searching of lands nominated as Ms Pender’s possible burial site yielded nothing.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times