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'Some days I just cry and cry': Fiona Pender's mother on her daughter's disappearance

Fiona Pender (25) went missing on this day 20 years ago.

Fiona Pender
Fiona Pender
Image: Pender family

THE MOTHER OF missing woman Fiona Pender has said she still holds out hope of finding her daughter’s body.

Josephine Pender was speaking today to mark the 20th anniversary of Fiona’s disappearance.

The 25-year-old left her apartment in Tullamore, Co Offaly on 23 August 1996 and was never seen again. She was seven months pregnant at the time.

Josephine believes her daughter was murdered.

Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk, Josephine said she is still “devastated” and, despite two decades passing, it feels as though Fiona disappeared yesterday.

“I left Fiona on the Wednesday night at her little flat, her apartment. She was standing at the door and she waved goodbye to myself and my younger son John, and that was the last time I saw Fiona.

Fiona and myself were very close, we’d have daily contact. I went down the following evening and there was nobody there.

“I just said, ‘Oh, she must be out with some of her friends’. As it happened we were still looking for her the next evening, that’s how I discovered poor Fiona was gone.”

The family contacted gardaí, but Josephine said a serious search didn’t begin for a few days as she was told, as an adult, Fiona was “entitled to go missing if she wants to”.

Josephine said Fiona wouldn’t do something like this, recalling that she knew “something had happened to her”.

Impact on the family 

Fiona’s disappearance was one of six missing women cases from the 1990s examined by gardaí under Operation Trace.

In December 2014, gardaí carried out a search of a forest in Portlaoise as part of their investigation into Fiona’s disappearance. It was called off after nothing of significance was found.

Speaking of this search, Josephine said: “I really got my hopes up, but I’m afraid it came to nothing.”

She said she still holds out hope that Fiona’s body will be found, but some days she isn’t sure if this will happen.

I have bad days and just cry and cry and think I’ll never find her.

Josephine said Fiona’s disappearance had a huge impact on her family.

“It was like a ripple effect on my whole family because my son Mark died in a motorbike accident 14 months before poor little Fiona went missing.

“In the year 2000, my husband couldn’t take it – the loss of losing his children – and he took his own life.

“After losing Mark, [Fiona’s baby] was going to be new life in the family and we were so looking forward to it. Sure he or she would be a fine young boy or girl of 20 years of age now … going to college or whatever. That was not to be.”

Read: Fiona Pender search in Co Laois forest called off

Read: 18 years on: Gardaí search isolated woods in Fiona Pender investigation

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Órla Ryan

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