Woman's relentless quest to solve the mystery of her sister's disappearance
A mother left her Dublin home to go to local shops eight years ago but she never returned, writes Alan O'Keeffe
Berna Fidan will never give up trying to solve the mystery of her sister's disappearance.
Gardai were told her sister Esra's last words were about popping out to the local shops before she drove away from her home in Dublin.
After that, she vanished.
That was at 7.15am on February 23, 2011. This weekend marks the eighth anniversary of the disappearance of the 38-year-old mother of one.
"Hope keeps me going," said Berna, who flew into Dublin recently from her home in London. Every year she arrives in Ireland to renew her crusade to find out what happened to Esra.
Berna is seven years older than Esra and played the role of a second mother to her in their family home in London. Four years before she vanished, Esra moved to Dublin with her husband, Ozgur Uyrun. The couple both came from Turkish families.
Esra, a strikingly attractive woman, was an amateur artist with a keen interest in fashion design. The couple's son, Emin, was born in Ireland. They were living in Collinstown Grove, Clondalkin, when Esra was reported missing.
At 11pm on the day she disappeared, her car was found on the Bray seafront in Co Wicklow. Her purse, with cash and credit cards, was found locked in the boot of the car.
Berna (54) is passionately convinced Esra would never have willingly left her little son and her home. "Whatever happened to Esra, happened against her will," she said.
She ruled out any possibility that Esra could have taken her life. She had been busily preparing for the arrival from London of her mother and mother-in-law and was excited about their expected arrival the next day.
And so, every year, Berna takes annual leave from her job in London to travel to Ireland. She is accompanied on her journeys to Dublin by Esra's lifelong friend Ilknur MacCormick (48). The women put up fresh posters all over Clondalkin, Bray and elsewhere, appealing for anyone with information to contact gardai in Bray, or the Garda Confidential Line. They also do the rounds of media outlets to raise awareness.
This year, the two women were accompanied by Berna's daughter, Ayda (25), a frequent ally on their Irish expeditions.
"Over the years, I've felt the stress of not getting a breakthrough. At times I've felt close to having a breakdown but I keep going," said Berna.
Her friend Ilknur said she feels Esra is still alive somewhere in the world. Berna said she still believes there is a "50-50" chance she is alive. Ayda believes her aunt is definitely dead.
Berna once more outlines what she wants the Irish public to know. Esra was reported by her husband to have left the house in the family's grey Renault Twingo car at 7.15am. He said Esra assured him she only needed the car for a few minutes to go to the local shops and she would be back in time for him to drive to his job in Sportingbet.com.
The grey Twingo was picked up on CCTV at the Power City roundabout in Clondalkin at around 8am and was seen being driven erratically in Bray at 8.30am. The car entered and left a car park near the Star Amusements on the seafront and re-entered the car park moments later, having almost collided with a silver Skoda Octavia.
None of the CCTV footage showed the driver, so gardai do not know if it was a man or a woman behind the wheel.
The car was found in the car park that night but it was in a position not covered by CCTV cameras. Among those who have helped in the search were volunteers who used a paraglider and diving equipment to search land and sea near Bray.
On the first anniversary of Esra's disappearance, something intriguing happened. Berna's daughter, Ayda, went into a local retail business in Neilstown, where Esra had been a regular customer. Ayda handed in a new poster of Esra. After she walked out, a staff member came running out and handed Berna a set of car keys, telling her they must have belonged to Esra.
There were photos on the keyring showing Esra, husband Ozgur and little Emin. The staff member said the bunch of keys were found on a counter in the shop a few months earlier. It was explained that no one had identified the Esra photo at the time the keys were found.
Berna said Esra had lost car keys in August 2010, six months before she disappeared, but strongly believes the keys found in the shop were not those she lost then.
Gardai conducted inquiries in the shop but there was no CCTV footage of the keys being left on the counter as it had happened several months before, she said.
"I remember I was shaking after being handed the keys. It was so disappointing that nothing came of it," she said.
As time passed after Esra's disappearance, Ozgur moved back to London with his son.
Berna has continued to make the journey back to Ireland, year after year.
She declared: "I will never give up. No matter how many years it takes. I will keep returning to Ireland until we find out what happened to Esra," she said.