'Dail election posters thwarted the search for my missing sister'
The baffling case of a woman who vanished without trace just two days before the last general election five years ago could have been quickly solved, were it not for the "selfish actions" of unscrupulous Dail candidates, her anguished family claimed yesterday.
Heartbroken Berna Fidan said she believes her missing sister Esra Uyrun - who was last seen leaving her family home in Clondalkin in Dublin on February 23, 2011 - might have been found, had posters she had erected of her younger sibling not been ripped down by election hopefuls in the vital hours following her disappearance.
Berna (49) said she is haunted to this day by the memory of spotting that several missing person notices she had erected around Bray in Co Wicklow - where Esra's car was discovered later on the morning of her disappearance - had been removed and replaced with images of aspiring Dail candidates.
London-based Berna said she feels it's a "bitter irony" that another general election campaign will be entering its final days when she returns to Ireland on Saturday to mount another desperate search for her sister.
"We're coming up to the fifth anniversary of Esra's disappearance now and unfortunately we don't have any new leads.
"But I can't help but wonder if this might have been solved straight away had some of my posters not been ripped down on my first visit to Ireland, just after Esra had gone missing.
"If the right person, or someone who knew something, had seen one of those posters that had been taken down, we could have got to the bottom of this straight away.
"I was very angry at the time and remember thinking, 'How dare you do that and put a bloody election poster up. We're talking about a missing person here. Isn't that more important?' I guess I'll never know if it could have made a difference, but those first few hours after she had gone missing were vital. And had my posters been left where they were, maybe we could have found her."
Berna says she believes her sister Esra (38), a married woman with one child, could have been abducted at some point between setting off from her home and the discovery of her vehicle - a grey Renault Twingo - in a seafront carpark in Bray later that morning.
Agonisingly, efforts to enhance CCTV footage which captured the car driving towards a car park in the town on the day she disappeared have been unsuccessful.
Esra and her husband Ozgur, who are both of Turkish descent, moved from England to Ireland when he secured a job in Dublin. Their son Emin was born here.
Berna is convinced her sister would never leave behind her only son, Emin.
Emin is now seven years old and he lives with his father in England. Berna said when Emin asks where his mother is, his father tells him: "Mummy went to the shop and got lost."
Berna, a mother-of-two, said she refuses to give up hope, not least because of the worrying decline of her 72-year-old mother's health.
"My mother's not in a good way and, to be honest, she's just holding on to hear news about Esra. She cries a lot and asks after her every day. I'm just desperate to get a breakthrough on this," she added.
"This will be about my 20th visit to Ireland and it's going to be a tough trip.
"I have to do this, because nobody else is helping me. And I just have to hold on to that glimmer of hope of a breakthrough," she said.
She told the Herald she will come to Ireland with her friend Ilknur MacCormack and they will visit several locations to erect posters as well as visit Ronanstown Garda Station where the investigation into Esra's disappearance has been based.
"I give a lot of posters to cabbies in the city to put in their taxis," she said.
"My daughter Seniz is getting married next month in London. She would travel several times to visit Esra in Ireland and she was very close to her. She was thinking of not having a wedding because her auntie is still missing. The wedding will go ahead but it is going to be low-key and bitter-sweet because Esra is still missing," she said.
Berna constantly rejects suggestions that Esra might have taken her own life.
"There was never any sign that she would ever commit suicide. On the morning she disappeared, her husband mentioned he would be taking the car to work and she told him to mind their little son while she used the car to pop down to the shops to get a few items so she wouldn't have a need for the car later," said Berna.
Her sister was not depressed and was not on medication, said her sister.
"I would like a completely new investigation into her disappearance so that the police would could look at it with fresh eyes," she said
Each passing year has taken its toll on Berna's resolve to keep Esra's case alive in people's minds.
"We pray that someone new will come along who will tell us something new. It's been getting so hard coming back to Ireland each and every time.
"But while we still don't know if she is dead or alive, when nothing has ever been found, at least we can have some hope. Although our hope is dwindling. It's what keeps us going," said Berna.
Berna, who looked after her younger sister Esra growing up, has spoken with countless people in Bray in the hope someone might have seen Esra or something to help the search.
Her sad quest will continue beyond next Monday, the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the mystery of Esra Uyrun.