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Fiona Pender: A look back through an 18-year mystery

Here’s how the case has unfolded, since August 1996.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS HAVE been reported tonight in the 18-year investigation into the disappearance of Co Offaly woman Fiona Pender.

The Irish Daily Star said this morning that Gardaí were close to making an arrest, after new information passed to them by police in another jurisdiction.

The Irish Times reports this evening that Gardaí are ready to begin a new dig in the search for the remains of Pender, who was 25 when she disappeared in August 1996, and is presumed to have died.

With a breakthrough in the case potentially imminent, here’s a recap of the last 18 years.

untitled-53-310x415 Source: Garda Press Office

  • 23 August, 1996: Fiona Pender’s partner John Thompson left her apartment on Church Street, Tullamore, at 6am. This was the last time she was seen. 
  • 24 August: Pender’s family reported her missing to Gardaí.

After many months of desperate searching, no trace of Pender was found.

  • In 1999, Gardaí included her case in Operation Trace – a major inquiry into the disappearance of several women in Leinster during the 90s, which experts – including the FBI – have suggested could have been the work of a serial killer. 
  • 2008: A small wooden cross bearing the name “Fiona Pender” is found on Slieve Bloom at the border between Laois and Offaly. 

Extensive Garda excavations at the site did not uncover any evidence.

  • 24 February, 2014: Gardaí in Tullamore renew their public appeal for help in tracing the whereabouts of Pender, who was seven months pregnant when she disappeared. 
  • 10 October, 2014: Various Irish media reports suggest that the main suspect in Pender’s disappearance, now living abroad, is suspected of having threatened another woman. 

According to RTE, Gardaí have travelled to the jurisdiction to interview her, while she is being held in protective custody.

New information is understood to have emerged from those interviews, and could represent a major breakthrough in the Pender case.

Read: Gardaí renew appeal for Fiona Pender, missing since 1996>

‘New leads’ in disappeared women cases>

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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