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Tullamore community come out in support of Pender family

31st August 2017


Gearoid Keegan

NEARLY 100 people walked and ran in support of the family of missing Tullamore woman Fiona Pender on Sunday.

There has been no trace of Ms Pender, who was seven months pregnant, since she vanished from her flat in Church Street on August 23, 1996.

Gardai believed she was murdered and though they interviewed a suspect shortly after her disappearance, they have been unable to solve the mystery.

Acting on information from the public, sites were excavated in an effort to find Fiona's remains but nothing was found.

Friends of the missing woman campaigned to have a stretch of the bank of the Grand Canal named 'Fiona's Way' in her memory and a five-kilometre walk and run now take place there each year.

Speaking at the walk on Sunday, Ms Pender's mother Josephine said she wished Fiona could be one of those out running.

“I'm still very devastated and just heartbroken,” she said. “It's very hard and it doesn't get any easier, it gets harder. I get so worn out.”

Mrs Pender said she still grieved for both her daughter and her unborn grandchild but was heartened to be present for the christening of her son John's baby daughter Annabelle the previous day.

A year before her daughter's disappearance Fiona's brother Mark was killed in a motorcycle accident and the family was hit by further tragedy in 2000 when Mrs Pender's husband Sean took his own life.

John, youngest brother of Fiona Pender, designed a memorial which marks the beginning of 'Fiona's Way' just yards from where the family lived in Tullamore.

Mrs Pender said her late husband never got over the deaths of his son, daughter and unborn grandchild and as long as there is “a breath” in her she will continue to keep Fiona's memory alive and ensure ongoing publicity about the case.

“Keeping it up there in the media is not a help to me but I hope it's a help in finding Fiona,” she said.

Mrs Pender's sister Mary Conway recalled the day in 1996 she learned of her niece's disappearance and thanked the public for their support.

“Twenty-one years has passed and in one way it's a long time but it's short in another way when I look back to the day Josephine told me on cemetery Sunday that she hadn't seen Fiona since the Friday before,” said Mrs Conway.

“It's great for Josephine that this walk is on and it's great to see all her friends and neighbours supporting her.”

Mrs Conway also joined in the calls for anyone with information to give it to the Gardai.

“If someone out there knows anything we would like them to come forward,” she said.

Cllr Brendan Killeavy, who completed the 5k run on Sunday, said it was important that Fiona's memory is kept alive.

"That's what it's all about. That's the reason we have the walkway and the monument here," said the Sinn Fein councillor.

"That was the idea from the start. While Garda investigations are ongoing, ordinary folk in the town wanted a way to keep Fiona's memory alive and remember Fiona," said the Sinn Fein councillor.

An explanatory panel has been placed at the site of the memorial to Fiona and it outlines what the sculpture signifies.

The two circles on the stone represent the mother Fiona and the unborn child she was carrying and the 24 cuts, 12 on each circle, represent 24 hours of the day and "mark the time until Fiona and her unborn child are found".

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