A sexual assault arrest in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan may lead to developments in the high profile disappearance of a pregnant hair dresser in Ireland 18 years ago.
Fiona Pender, a 25-year-old hairdresser and part-time model, was last seen Aug. 22, 1996 in Tullamore, Ireland. Pender was seven months pregnant when she disappeared.
Police believed she was murdered and her body buried, but nearly two decades later her fate remains a mystery.
Now, the arrest of a 41-year-old Irish man in Saskatoon for sexually assaulting and threatening to kill his wife has allegedly led to information in the Pender case. The Star Phoenix reports that after the arrest of the man, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban on anything that would identify the complainant in the sexual assault, Irish police have began further investigations into the Pender disappearance and are planning to dig in new locations for her body.
"I've never forgotten about her. She's been on my mind constantly,” said Pender’s mother Josephine, 65.
"It's important for me to find her body and the body of her baby. I need to give them dignity.”
Irish police told Josephine that new information could lead to a break in on daughter’s case and only that the new information came from a “foreign” source. Media reports say sources have confirmed that revelations were made during the investigation of the sexual assault case in Saskatchewan.
According to a report in the Herald, the man is the main suspect in the Pender case, but was never charged. Although he has denied involvement in the disappearance, police have reportedly received information that he may have told another woman the location of where Pender is buried.
It is unclear when the man left Ireland or when he married, but he and his wife moved into their home in Saskatoon less than a year ago, say residents.
RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) have confirmed the man’s arrest but declined to comment on the connection to the Pender case or any collaboration with Irish police.
The man, who has been charged with several counts of sexual assault and with threatening to kill his wife, is currently out on bail with the condition that he remain home except when he’s working. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is due back in court on Dec 2 for a preliminary hearing, reports the Star Phoenix.