Revealed: Family of missing Fiona Sinnott begin own private dig in search
Separate digs started for Fiona and Ciara Breen after fresh tip-offs in unsolved cases
Separate searches are under way for the remains of two young women who vanished exactly a year apart in the 1990s.
The disappearances of Fiona Sinnott and Ciara Breen have remained unsolved for two decades but their families believe they are now closer than ever to gaining closure.
Cold-case detectives began combing 16 acres of marshland near Dundalk, Co Louth, yesterday looking for Ms Breen, who was 17 when she disappeared in February 1997.
The Irish Independent can reveal that the family of Ms Sinnott have begun their own private dig in Co Wexford.
She has been missing from the home she shared with her then 11-month-old daughter in Ballyhitt in February 1998.
"People are coming to us all the time with bits and pieces of information, we are going on every lead now, not just one lead, we've got three prime places that we have to look into," said Fiona's uncle Eugene.
Although there are many similarities between the cases, gardaí are satisfied that there is no connection and have two different suspects in mind.
They are just two of Ireland's seven missing women who disappeared in an area that became known as the 'Vanishing Triangle,' between 1993 and 1998.
Yesterday, garda divers were joined by forensic archaeologists and the Garda Tactical Team at Balmor's Bog near Dundalk after getting a "serious lead" in Ms Breen's case.
Lead investigator Detective Pat Marry said they were concentrating their efforts on a specific area of the sprawling marsh.
"As you can see, we are treating this very seriously. It is a definite line of inquiry.
"It is a mammoth task given the size of the search area but at the moment we are looking at specific areas," he added.
Read more: Fiona: An independent young mother
Another senior source said they were "quietly confident" that the search would turn something up.
The breakthrough follows a media appeal late last year that resulted in two anonymous letters with information being sent to gardaí.
Last April, a man in his 50s was arrested and questioned but later released without charge.
Meanwhile, speaking exclusively to the Irish Independent, the family of Fiona Sinnott, who was 19 when she disappeared, said they had also now been approached by "reliable sources" with new information.
Although she disappeared in 1998, it wasn't until 2005 that the investigation was upgraded to a full murder inquiry.
Fiona's father Pat died 11 years ago aged 59, a "broken-hearted" man ,having waited at the gate of his house every single evening since February 9, 1998, for his youngest child to return home.
Now one of three sites being searched in the south-east is emerging as the strongest possibility of solving the mystery.
The family, with the assistance of Trace Missing Persons Ireland, began digging in recent weeks.
Specially trained cadaver dogs are being used, as are diggers that were lent to the family by a local firm. Members of An Garda Síochána have also visited the area.
Fiona had been out with friends in her local pub, Butler's in Broadway, on the night she vanished.
Gardaí identified it as the last place she was seen alive.
"We think something drastic happened that night, that Fiona left the pub, something drastic," her sister Diane said.
She said that Fiona rang her brother "pleading" for him to go to her that night.
"It was like as if she was in fear. He feels guilty, that if he went down that night things would be different," she said.
A garda spokesperson said that "all potential avenues are being determinedly and actively pursued".
He said they are carrying out a "thorough evaluation of the information already in our possession from the investigation to date since 1998 and with the possible leads from our ongoing inquiries".