Irish News

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Tributes paid to murdered nanny and her unborn child

Sarah Stack and Ed Carty

Published 08/11/2012|17:59

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MURDERED nanny Aoife Phelan and her unborn baby have been remembered as beautiful angels who are shining bright like diamonds.

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The pregnant 30-year-old was violently beaten before her body was put in a barrel and buried in landfill with rubbish and rubble about 8km from her family home in Co Laois.



Two little white teddy bears and bunches of roses at the gate of a haulage yard were left as a poignant reminder of the grim discovery nearby.



Garda crime scene investigators are continuing a fingertip search of the site, a field next to the chief suspect's family home, a well-kept white dormer bungalow with a neat garden on the Timahoe Road near Portlaoise.



The 24-year-old lorry driver, who is believed to have had a brief relationship with the murdered woman, was rearrested last night and remains in custody.



He must be charged or released before midnight.



Less than five miles away in the townland of Cashel, in the village of Ballyroan, Ms Phelan's grief-stricken parents, Michael and Betty, and their 11 other children were being comforted by relations and friends.



Cars lined the road outside the modest family bungalow as sympathisers paid their respects.



"It's a tragedy for everyone, for both families," said one local woman, who did not want to be named.



A memorial service to mark the second week of Ms Phelan's disappearance will be held tonight, as planned, in her local parish church, St Patrick's Ballyroan, but members of the Phelan family were not expected to attend.



Several floral tributes for the victim were placed close to where her body was recovered yesterday.



"For 2 beautiful angels," read one card signed by Laura B, "Shining bright like two diamonds, RIP," read another, and "RIP Aoife and infant, thoughts and prayers with you and your family," said another.



Cars sped by as three young women, their eyes red from crying, left flowers and bowed their heads in silence before leaving the scene without speaking.



A Facebook page set up in memory of Ms Phelan appeared to be closed down after an appeal from her sister Leighanne Roche to "take it down in respect".



Ms Phelan was four months pregnant when she vanished on Thursday, October 25, after meeting a friend and leaving a house on Colliers View in Portlaoise. She worked in the town as a live-in nanny.



The alarm was raised when she did not show up for work the following morning.



Despite extensive searches of the river Barrow amid fears she had been thrown over a bridge, her body was discovered during excavations of land after a tip-off reporting suspicious activity.



The scene nearby the excavation would normally be picturesque, next to a field with sheep and surrounded by hedging, sweeping hills and autumn toned trees.



Behind a garda cordon, a forensic examination took place of an industrial sized shed behind the house on the Timahoe Road.



All the blinds were drawn on the property throughout the day.



CCTV camera looks down on the haulage yard, a piece of security that may give investigators and Ms Phelan's family some answers as to how a popular young woman's life ended.



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