Josephine Pender - Mother of missing Fiona Pender from Tullamore Credit: RTE
The mother of missing Offaly woman Fiona Pender has died.
Josephine Pender campaigned for the investigation into her daughter's disappearance for many years, and indeed, just last month, made a heartfelt appeal on the 21st anniversary of her disappearance.
Josephine passed away after a long battle with illness.
Fiona was seven months pregnant when she vanished from her flat on Church Street, Tullamore, Co Offaly on August 23, 1996.
Speaking just three weeks ago, Josephine said: "I can't say it's got any easier in the 21 years - it's been a lifetime and it's hard to believe."
At that time, Josephine said she had given up hope of Fiona being found alive, and said that despite wanting gardaí to find her, "the thought of someone having buried her in the ground is terrible," and that such a discovery would be extremely distressing. "It would break your heart," she added.
"Somebody does know something and I need to know as soon as I can where Fiona is, because I don't know with my heart if I'm going to last," she said on August 23.
She died this afternoon, September 13.
Above Fiona Pender
Josephine suffered other family tragedy during in her life. Less than a year before Fiona disappeared, and in 2000, her husband took his own life.
She will be remembered as an incredibly strong woman, and one who never gave up, through all the hardships, of finding Fiona, or at least figuring out what happened to her.
The mother of missing Offaly woman, Fiona Pender, has made a heartfelt appeal on RTE Radio this morning, 21 years after her daughter vanished.
Speaking to RTÉ's Midlands Correspondent Ciaran Mullooly in August she recalled August 22, 1996, the last time she saw Fiona alive, saying she dropped her back to her flat, gave her a kiss and said she'd she her in the morning.
"I remember crossing the road and waving goodbye to her, and that's the last time I seen her," Josephine said.
Later that day, Fiona went missing from her Offaly home.
Josephine also remarked how much she thinks about Fiona's unborn child who would be 21 years of age now. "They would be going to college - it's a huge loss. This new baby was to be new life in the family and it is so horrible that someone could harm her."
Josephine said she had given up hope of her daughter being found alive, and said that despite wanting gardaí to find her, "the thought of someone having buried her in the ground is terrible," and that such a discovery would be extremely distressing.
"It would break your heart," she added. "If I knew she was out there somewhere, I would dig it up with my bare hands."
The heartbroken mother pleaded with someone to come forward with information.
"Somebody does know something and I need to know as soon as I can where Fiona is, because I don't know with my heart if I'm going to last.
"If anyone can shed light on it, I would go as far as to beg them to come forward, and hopefully it results in finding her," Josephine said.
"I'm not interested in punishment or anything like that, I just want to give Fiona back a bit of dignity by giving her a proper funeral and a burial and to lay her to rest with her daddy and her brother."
"I don't think that's very much to ask," Josephine Pender concluded.
At the time of her disappearance, Ms Pender was described as being 5’5” in height, with long blonde hair, and she was aged just 25. She was wearing brightly coloured clothing and white leggings and was last seen at her apartment on Church Street.
An excavation of woods in the Slieve Bloom Mountains near Rosenallis, Co Laois was abandoned in December 14. Two cadaver dogs and other equipment failed to detect any 'anomalies' that might tie in with the burial of a corpse at the site. A strip of land around 200 metres in length was searched without result.
Search in the Slieve Blooms for the remains of Fiona Pender.
The search centred on land adjacent to a lay-by at Capard on a quiet scenic road used mainly by visitors to the nearby Glenbarrow waterfall.
The woman who supplied the information to gardai said she had been brought to the location almost 10 years ago while in a relationship with the suspect and he told her that Fiona was buried there.
A man who was found not guilty of sexually assaulting his wife in Canada was widely reported as being a suspect in Fiona's dissappearance.
The Irish man, who cannot be named because of a publication ban on the identity of his wife as the complainant in a sexual assault case, claimed the real motivation of the police officers and Crown prosecutor in Canada was “a desire for recognition” for helping to solve the mysterious disappearance of an Irish woman 20 years ago.
The Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported that in acquitting the man of all the criminal charges against him, the judge at his 2015 trial in Saskatoon said the complainant likely fabricated the sexual assault and threat allegations to influence a custody battle over their two children.
Anyone with information that might be able to help Gardaí find Fiona and what happened to her can contact Tullamore Garda Station on 057-9327600.