Death of missing Fiona's mother 'felt by whole town'
Tributes have been paid to Josephine Pender, the mother of missing woman Fiona Pender, who died on Wednesday following an illness.
Her death comes just three weeks after the 21st anniversary of her daughter Fiona's disappearance.
Fiona 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.
Fiona's brother Mark was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1995. Their father, Seán, died by suicide in 2000.
Fianna Fáil councillor Frank Moran said he "hopes Josephine is finally at peace now and that respect can be given to the grieving family".
"I was only in Tullamore hospital yesterday and you can get a sense of her loss from everyone, it's being felt by the whole of Tullamore," he said.
"Over the years, it was always a story that continuously went on and was always on the minds of people.
"I remember walking up Fiona Way, a bridge named after Fiona, with Josephine and she struck me as a lovely woman."
Fr Sean Heaney also paid tribute to tireless campaigner Josephine. He said the community is 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," he said.
"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.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also extended his sympathies to Mrs Pender's loved ones as he reflected on their "long number of heartbreaking years".