Tributes as mother of missing Fiona dies with mystery unsolved
Just weeks ago, the mother of Fiona Pender made an emotional plea for information on her missing daughter, begging to bury her and "give her dignity back" before she herself died.
But tragically Josephine Pender, who had been battling a heart condition, passed away yesterday afternoon with the fate of her daughter left unsolved.
Her death came just three weeks after the 21st anniversary of her daughter Fiona's disappearance, when Mrs Pender repeated a plea for information that had echoed down the years since Fiona went missing.
Her daughter (25) was seven months pregnant when she went missing from her flat on Church Street, Tullamore, Co Offaly, on August 23, 1996.
Despite a number of recent searches and digs, there has been no trace of the missing woman.
The most recent appeal carried added poignancy as Mrs Pender, who was in her late 60s, revealed that she feared dying before the truth about Fiona was known.
"Someone definitely knows something. I need to know as soon as I can where Fiona is because I don't know, with my heart, whether I am going to last," she said.
She said that she didn't even care about punishment anymore.
Fiona's brother Mark was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1995 and their father, Seán, took his own life in 2000.
Monsignor Sean Heaney led tributes to Mrs Pender last night, saying the community of Tullamore was greatly saddened by her death.
"Josephine became a national figure in her campaign to find the remains of her daughter Fiona and her unborn child who disappeared in 1996. Her determination and single-mindedness has been an inspiration to many people who are similarly tortured by the unsolved mystery of the disappearance of a loved family member."
He said there was "great sadness that Josephine did not live to see closure of the mystery of Fiona's disappearance".
"In all her suffering, Josephine was sustained by a strong faith in God, and a belief that the mystery will eventually be solved. In all her distraction, Josephine had a huge capacity to show warmth and respect for everyone who supported her in her long, drawn-out quest for an end to her torment," he said.