Gardai fear for safety of missing pregnant woman
GARDAI investigating the disappearance of Aoife Phelan have said they are "anxious for her safety" as the search for the mother-to-be enters its fourth day.
Ms Phelan (31), who is four months' pregnant, has not been seen since she left a friend's house in Portlaoise, Co Laois, last Thursday evening.
A senior garda source said they are keeping "an open mind" as to why the popular young woman vanished, but are concerned for her welfare.
"We are treating this seriously, we are anxious for this girl's safety."
He said gardai were dealing with a "significant amount of inquiries" and carrying out searches, but refused to say where. Ms Phelan's family said the disappearance was "completely out of character".
The alarm was raised after she failed to turn up at her childminding job last Friday morning. Her family reported her missing later that day.
Ms Phelan's parents, Michael and Betty, declined to speak to the media as friends and relatives gathered at their home at Cashel, Ballyroan, outside Portlaoise yesterday.
Bobby Delaney, a Mountmellick councillor and a member of the local authority's Joint Policing Committee, said yesterday he had "been trying all day to get information" on the investigation.
Members of Ms Phelan's family have put up posters around town and on lampposts along Collier's Lane where she was last seen as she left a friend's house shortly after 8pm on Thursday. She is understood to have been heading home.
Gardai discovered that her mobile phone was last traced to a transmitting mast in Mountmellick about an hour after she went missing, before it was switched off. Ms Phelan has friends in the area, but she has not made contact with them.
Her employer, Darren Bayliss, went on Twitter to ask people to help trace the missing childminder, describing her disappearance as a "living nightmare"
Ms Phelan's sister, Leanne Roche, said her sister was happy about her pregnancy and looking forward to the birth.
"It was my son's fifth birthday on Friday and Aoife would have sent a text at one minute past midnight to say happy birthday. She is that type of person and very close to all of us."
Ms Phelan is described as being 5ft 7in, of slim build with long blonde/sandy hair and blue eyes. She was wearing jeans and a knitted jumper. Anyone with information is asked to contact gardai in Portlaoise on 057 8674100, the Garda Confidential Telephone Line 1800 666 111.