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18 years on

Fiona Pender investigation: Fresh search to take place near Portlaoise

It follows fresh progress in the investigation into the 25-year-old’s disappearance, more than 18 years ago.

Updated 7.12am

GARDAÍ ARE TO hold a press conference to outline recent progress in their investigation into the disappearance of Offaly woman Fiona Pender more than 18 years ago.

Investigators are to begin searching an area of ground near Portlaoise.

It follows reports in recent months that officers are close to making an arrest in the case, after new information passed on to them by police in another jurisdiction.

Fiona, who worked as a hairdresser, was 25 when she disappeared in August 1996, and is presumed to have died.

Gardaí confirmed yesterday that a search will take place at a location near Portlaoise from this morning.

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With a breakthrough in the case potentially imminent, here’s a recap of what’s been happening over the last 18 years…

  • 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.
  • 04 November 2014: Gardaí confirm a fresh search will commence near Portlaoise.

First published 4 December

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

Read: ‘New leads’ in disappeared women cases>

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