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Gardai 'close to tears' as Fiona hunt called off

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Josephine Pender at her home in Tullamore holding a picture of her missing daughter Fiona

Josephine Pender at her home in Tullamore holding a picture of her missing daughter Fiona

Josephine Pender at her home in Tullamore holding a picture of her missing daughter Fiona

The mother of missing woman Fiona Pender has been left "devastated" after an intensive garda search of a woodland area failed to find her body.

Josephine Pender (65) said she was brought by gardai to the forest at Capard, Co Offaly on Saturday and shown an area which had been searched thoroughly by technical teams since last month.

But the garda searchers were "close to tears" as she was informed the search was being called off without any trace of her pregnant daughter.

Two other areas in the region will be searched by gardai in the New Year.

Pregnant

Fiona was 25 when she disappeared from her flat in Tullamore, Co Offaly, on the morning of August 22, 1996. She was seven months pregnant.

The woodlands is near the village of Rosenallis and scenic Glenburrow waterfall.

The intensive search of a 2,500 square metres section of the woodlands began after the wife of the prime suspect in Fiona's disappearance said her husband admitted to her he had killed Fiona and buried her there.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is under house arrest in another country after he was charged with threatening to kill his partner and sexually assaulting her.

Josephine Pender (65), who is in poor health, said on the 18th anniversary of Fiona's disappearance that she feared she will die before she can give her daughter and her unborn grandchild a Christian burial.

Her daughter, a hairdresser who also worked as a model, was described by a friend as "a beautiful, funny and witty girl."

Gardai technical teams had cleared much of the search site of branches and foliage and used specialist equipment and dogs trained to sniff out human remains.

On Saturday, Mrs Pender told the Mail on Sunday newspaper that she was devastated the woodland search failed to find her beloved daughter.

"She's not there, she's just not there. I really though I'd have her home for Christmas," she said.

"There were a few people who were certain she was there, and I felt it myself. I just can't understand why she's not.

Tears

"The gardai are devastated, all of them were close to tears. They really want me to have her home, they did everything to find her.

"But she's just not there," she said.

"I'm exhausted from crying. They said they did all the areas that were marked out and the dogs did their bit.

"The archaeologist was looking at the soil and underneath it," she said. "They are all finishing up".

hnews@herald.ie


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