'I will never end the search for our Fiona' - John Pender vows to continue his mother's campaign
The brother of missing woman Fiona Pender has vowed to continue the search for her body as he mourns the recent loss of his mother.
Josephine Pender, a staunch campaigner, passed away after a lengthy battle with illness this afternoon, 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.
Her brother John (34) has now vowed to work to bring her killer to justice and has promised to continue the work of his mother who he says was his "hero".
"This is not over until Fiona is found its that simple. The time it takes makes no difference. Now that my mother has passed away it's only re-enforced the will to find Fiona and just as important bring a murderer who thinks he is gotten away with it scot-free [to justice]," he told Independent.ie.
"It is my time do what I can do for our this cause as I do not stand alone.
"I have a convoy of good-hearted people here for me , just a phone call away," he added.
"I have great support on a local and national level."
Mr Pender recalled the moment he discovered his sister is missing.
"It was a state of shock and belief. I was in shock and so were the rest of the family, it felt unreal as we started the search for her. We were hopeful at first that there was some normal explanation for her disappearance. Hope is very hard thing to quench but as time went by the reality dawned on all of us that something very wrong with 'our Fi'," he said.
"I remember the last time we spoke together before she was taken so cruelly from us...She sent me to the shop for a copy book and pen. I said my goodbye and rubbed her belly wished her well and that was the last time we spoke," he added.
John said it would take "nothing more than an animal to kill a mother and baby"
"As a family we have always supported the garda investigation and their conclusion to who the chief suspect was."
His older sister was "great fun to be around".
"She always remained bright and bubbly even through tough times in her life she was so down to earth and easy to talk to," Mr Pender said.
"Looking back her only fault I can honestly say is that she didn't have enough confidence in herself for such an attractive girl.
"I only started to realised how attractive she was - when I went into town with her and so many people would stop to talk to her and give her big hello - mostly boys - but she had no airs or graces about her," he said.
Mr Pender said he wanted to "send gratitude everyone have helped to try and solve the countless cases of the missing people of Ireland".
"So much more needs to be done for their memories and families left behind. I am appealing for a full re-investigation of my own sister's case as I believe time makes no difference, patience is needed and things are just beginning with Fiona's case," he said.
Fiona’s boyfriend at the time, John Thompson, was previously identified by gardai as a suspect in the case but has consistently denied having any involvement with the disappearance.
Thompson was arrested and questioned by gardai in April 1997 but was later released without charge.
In a newspaper interview after his arrest, Thompson said he last saw Fiona in their flat in Church Street on August 23, 1996 when he left for work at 6am.
He also said she could not have disappeared from a busy town without being seen by someone.