Gardai arrest man in his 20s after Aoife's body is found
GARDAI have tonight arrested a man in his 20s as part of the investigation into the murder of Aoife Phelan.
The arrest comes as the devastated family of the pregnant nanny have been praised for their strength and courage as a body was found buried in a yard.
The grim discovery was made by gardai as they forensically examined a site at the back of a house on the outskirts of Portlaoise, Co Laois, shortly after 11am.
Ms Phelan (30) vanished almost two weeks ago after meeting a friend.
"As part of the investigation into the murder of Aoife Phelan Gardaí have this evening, November 7th 2012, arrested a man in his 20s," a Garda spokesman said.
"He is detained at Portlaoise Garda Station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.
"A post mortem examination on the body of a woman discovered earlier today, is underway at Tullamore General Hospital."
Parish priest Fr Gerard Ahern earlier said Ms Phelan's disappearance had shocked her close-knit community in Cashel in the village of Ballyroan.
"It's very sombre. It's just amazing the effect it has had, there's a very gloomy feeling about," he said.
"But at least a body has been found. While it's not what we would have hoped for, it's some comfort to the family that they will have Aoife home.
"They have shown great strength and courage in the face of this. They have been exceptional and have had great support from family and the community."
The dead woman's grief-stricken family - parents Michael and Betty and their 11 other children - held a candlelight vigil last Friday in the town, where they prayed for her safe return.
But gardai upgraded her disappearance to murder and a suspect was arrested on Monday. A vehicle was also seized and Ms Phelan's mobile phone discovered.
Forensic experts moved into the site off Timahoe Road and used a mini-digger and shovels to excavate ground at the rear of the white two-storey property.
Witnesses said officers erected a blue tarpaulin, but could be seen climbing down a step ladder to reach the remains, which were removed from the hole shortly after 3pm.
State pathologist Marie Cassidy examined the scene and is carrying out a port-mortem examination to formally identify the victim and determine the cause of death.
A garda spokesman said a family liaison officer has been in constant contact with the Phelan family.
Two clear bags of evidence, including clothes and what appeared to be books, were taken away from the site, where there were also scrap cars, tyres and a mound of soil.
Meanwhile garda divers were examining a river bed about 12 miles away amid fears Ms Phelan's body had been thrown into the River Barrow from the M7 on the Laois/Kildare border.
Ms Phelan was last seen shortly after 8pm on Thursday October 25, after she left a friend's house on Colliers View.
She was four months pregnant and worked as a live-in nanny in the town.