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

Gardaí are also employing forensic archaeologists and cadaver dogs in the search. Fiona was 25 when she disappeared in August of 1996.

Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

TEAMS OF GARDAÍ started a search of an isolated wooded area near Mountmellick in County Laois this morning.

It’s the the latest development in the 18-year-old investigation into the disappearance of Offaly woman Fiona Pender, who was 25 when she went missing in August 1996.

It follows recent progress in the case. It’s understood new information was passed on to investigating Gardaí by police in another jurisdiction.

Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

“Unfortunately despite significant efforts and large scale investigations down the years we have not been successful to date in recovering Fiona,”  Chief Superintendent for Laois/Offaly John Scanlon told reporters today.

He said the search was based on fresh intelligence — but played down hopes that the renewed effort would yield any significant leads.

“This is not to say that this will be a successful search,  it’s just part of the ongoing investigations into this disappearance.”

“This will be a forensic search,” Scanlon said.

“We will be employing the services of our own specially trained people who are trained in searching for [...] persons who have been missing for substantial periods of time.

“We are also engaging forensic archaeologists, cadaver dogs and others to search this specific area of approximately 200 square metres.”

Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

The wooded area is located in the townland of Rosenallis, to the northwest of Mountmellick town — south of Tullamore, where Fiona lived.

The 25-year-old hairdresser was last seen on Church Street in the town on 23 August in 1996, and was reported missing by her family the following day. She was seven months pregnant when she disappeared.

Source: Family handout

There have been a number of apparent leads in the case in the intervening years, most notably in 2008 when a small wooden cross bearing Fiona’s name was found on Slieve Bloom at the Laois/Offaly border. However, excavations at the site did not uncover any evidence.

A renewed appeal was made in February of this year, and in October a number of media outlets reported that investigators were close to a possible breakthrough in the case.

-First published 4.32 pm

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

Read: ‘New leads’ in disappeared women cases

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