Sunday 22 September 2019

Missing: Fiona Sinnott review: Shauna Keogh’s powerful, painful film will pierce your heart

4 stars

Fiona Sinnott
Fiona Sinnott

Pat Stacey

People have always been fascinated by real murders and real murderers. Less so, unfortunately, with the innocent victims and the grieving people their heinous atrocities leave behind to suffer.

There’s been a particular spate of them in recent times. Making a Murderer, The Staircase, The Keepers, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. And these are just a few of the dozens of such things to be found on Netflix.

Terrestrial television channels, and particularly ITV, have also plunged headlong into the true-crime swamp, with the likes of Trevor McDonald and Piers Morgan fronting programmes about serial killers and death-row inmates. It’s all become a bit too much, more about voyeurism than enlightenment.

Thankfully, Missing: Fiona Sinnott, about the mysterious disappearance more than 20 years ago of a young Wexford woman, whose baby daughter was just about to reach her first birthday, doesn’t fall into the same category as most of the above.

Fiona Sinnott.
Fiona Sinnott.

In the strictest sense, it isn’t really a true-crime documentary at all, but something else entirely. The basic facts of Fiona’s disappearance in 1998, which was upgraded from a missing person case to a murder investigation seven years later, are outlined.

How she was last seen leaving Butler’s pub in Broadway. How her ex-partner, who was present in the pub that night but not in Fiona’s company, told gardaí that he walked her home, spent the night sleeping on the sofa and left the following morning at 9am, when his mother arrived to pick him up by car.

Fiona told him, he said, that she wasn’t feeling well and had an appointment to see the doctor. She told her family the same thing, but there’s no record of her ever having seen a doctor that day, or of anybody else ever seeing her again.

If you’re interested in all the details of the investigation, they’re out there in the public domain, in the numerous newspaper reports you’ll find online.

Emmy nominee Shauna Keogh’s powerful, painful film is about grieving and loss, sadness and emptiness, hopes raised and hopes dashed. It’s almost impressionistic at times.

There are interviews with Fiona’s family and close friends (none of whom have ever spoken publicly before), as well as the landlord of the house she was renting when she disappeared, the barman from Butler’s pub, the Garda diver who searched in vain for her body, and the former detective who led the investigation, Alan Bailey.

We see, for the first time in old videos, Fiona alive: a vibrant, young woman with everything, including a daughter called Emma (who now lives with Fiona’s ex-partner’s parents), to live for.

We hear about her father, who would stand at the gate at night, waiting for her to return home, long after it was apparent she never would. He died, say his family, of a broken heart.

We hear one of her brothers talk about how he still has trouble sleeping. “It’s Fiona, going around in my head.”

We hear how the family put up a marble plaque in memory of Fiona. Disgustingly, some b*****d or b*****ds unknown tore it down the next day.

One of the most heartbreaking moments in a heartbreaking film comes when the family see Fiona’s medical records for the first time. They reveal she endured appalling domestic abuse: kicked, bitten, punched in the face and head. Even when she was six months pregnant.

The Sinnott family won’t give up searching. They still chase up leads, which have so far come to nothing. It’s made clear that a number of people know what happened to Fiona and who was responsible. They’re keeping quiet.

“All it would take is a phone call,” says Alan Bailey.

Available to watch on Virgin Media Player.

Read more: ‘The medical records were extremely shocking for the family’ – producer of new documentary about Fiona Sinnott’s disappearance

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