Sunday 22 September 2019

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

Emmy nominated TV producer Shauna Keogh spent 18 months working with Fiona's family for Virgin Media One documentary Missing: Fiona Sinnott: True Lives

Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

A new documentary about Fiona Sinnott, the 19-year-old mother-of-one who went missing in Wexford in 1998, claims she was subjected to domestic abuse.

Emmy-nominated producer and director Shauna Keogh spent 18 months researching the case, interviewing Fiona’s family, friends and people in the local community, and delving into the young woman’s medical records for Missing: Fiona Sinnott: True Lives.

In the course of the film, Fiona’s family sat down together to review those records in an effort to learn more about Fiona’s life in the months before she went missing.

“The medical records were extremely shocking for them,” says Shauna. “Norman, Fiona’s brother, asked ‘How come we didn’t know?’  The truth is she never told them and I think that’s not unusual for somebody experiencing [domestic abuse].

Fiona Sinnott disappeared 20 years ago
Fiona Sinnott disappeared 20 years ago

“That was the difficult thing for them to see, that there was a lot of trauma beforehand.  It was very hard for them to take.  [Fiona’s sister] Gina said to me that after they went through the records together none of them could eat or sleep for three days.”

Fiona was last seen leaving her local pub, Butler's, in Broadway on February 8, 1998.  At the time she had an 11-month-old daughter and they were living together in a rented house.

Despite thousands of hours of investigations by the gardai and her family, no sign has ever been found of Fiona. In 2005 her case was upgraded to a murder investigation and six people were arrested and released without charge.

Over the years the family has issued many pleas for information, chased many tip offs, and even organised digs in an effort to find her body.

“I think they know that Fiona won’t be returning,” says Shauna.  “Watching a family look at properties and dig for a body is just incredibly... I can’t really describe it.  It’s so hard at times to believe this is what is happening.”

Without closure, the family continues to search for the truth, and not knowing what happened to their loved one is a gruelling and unbearably difficult burden to carry for more than two decades.

“One of the scenes at the end of the documentary is a tip off and that’s the other thing that is so hard, chasing every single lead, wondering what to believe and what not to believe.  They spend their whole lives just going into places and looking and they don’t have any result,” reveals Shauna.

"It’s finding the strength to follow another tip off to get your hopes crushed because there is no outcome.  Gina was saying her uncles were in septic tanks looking for Fiona’s body. It’s shocking and just so sad.”

Fiona’s family gave careful consideration as to whether or not to take part in the documentary as it is a difficult process emotionally given they would have to relive the most traumatic period of their lives.

“Twenty years is so long, the anger has subsisted to a certain degree. The pain never goes away.  The pain is etched on their faces,” says Shauna.  Ultimately, however, they decided to go ahead as they wanted to give Fiona a voice.

“They’re doing this for Fiona and to give Fiona a voice.  After all these years they don’t want her to be forgotten,” says Shauna.  The family has also shared poignant home footage of Fiona for the first time.

“Fiona Sinnott, as the years went by, she was an image on a poster, or you’d read something somewhere and she was just a face essentially,” says Shauna.  “One of the most important things for me was getting the moving imagery of Fiona for the first time and to see her as a young, beautiful girl, just a teenager in some of the footage.  She was a young mother, a daughter, a friend, and those things start to resonate.”

The family’s motivation now, she says, is to simply bring Fiona home; “They just want a burial.  That’s what they want.  They’re not looking for vengeance.  All they want is to bring her home.  It’s incredibly sad.”

In the course of the documentary detective Alan Bailey describes the case as one of the most solvable cases in Ireland.  There are, he believes, people who have information about what happened to Fiona who are remaining silent.

It is the price of that silence which Shauna hopes the documentary drives home.  While she says she is "no armchair detective" and does not have the answers, she hopes that the film will prompt somebody with information to step forward and finally give Fiona’s family closure.

"If they can look at this documentary and see the emotional distress this family have gone through, if they have any information they can come forward and just pass it on,” says Shauna.  “Alan Bailey said all it would take would be a phone call.  It’s that simple.”

Missing: Fiona Sinnott: True Lives airs on Virgin Media One tonight (Wednesday May 1) at 9pm.

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