'Find my Fiona' says distraught mum as new search planned
A FRESH bid to find the body of missing Offaly woman Fiona Pender is expected to be launched in the near future.
Gardai are more confident than ever at solving the 18-year mystery of the disappearance of the 25-year-old hairdresser and part-time model in 1996 when she was seven months pregnant.
The latest breakthrough came after the wife of the main suspect in her disappearance was taken into police protection abroad after saying her life was in danger.
Police arrested and charged the man with assaulting his wife, and gardai have flown to interview her.
The suspect is now on bail awaiting trial.
The farm of a relative of the chief suspect is due to be extensively searched in the near future a bid to find Fiona's remains.
Speaking since the latest breakthrough, Fiona's heartbroken mother Josephine has said she just wants to give her daughter a Christian burial in a marked grave she can visit.
"All I want is my Fiona and her baby back - nothing else matters," she said.
Meanwhile, at the home of the chief suspect, distraught family members said they had done nothing wrong.
"It has been a very hard few years. We just want to be left in peace," they said when approached by the Mail newspaper.
Fiona was last seen by her partner at the flat they shared on Church Street.
He told gardai she was still asleep when he went to work on the family farm on the morning of August 23, 1996.
When one of Fiona's oldest friends called to the flat later that day, she got no reply. The curtains were drawn and she presumed Fiona might be in bed.
On August 24, when there was still no sign of Fiona, her family rang her partner who said he hadn't seen her either. That evening, Josephine reported Fiona missing to gardai.
In the following weeks and months, searches took place across boglands, woods and rivers.
Nothing tangible emerged until the discovery of a crude make-shift cross in May 2008, which suggested that Fiona Pender was buried at Monicknew Woods on Slieve Bloom.
But two searches of a two-acre site yielded nothing.