Three decades since she was last seen, Imelda Keenan remains at the forefront of her family’s thoughts and her loved ones hold on to hope that the truth of what happened to her will be discovered.
Family members have issued a fresh appeal for information on the disappearance of Ms Keenan and have affirmed their view that she was murdered and that there are people who know more about her fate who could still be of great help to the ongoing investigation.
Ms Keenan was originally from Mountmellick in Co Laois but moved to Waterford city in the early 1990s, following her older brother Gerry who still lives in the area and is one of the leading figures in the search for answers.
She was last seen on 3 January 1994 when she left her apartment in Waterford to carry out an errand.
Every year family members gather at a plaque on Lombard Street in Waterford which was erected to mark her disappearance and keep her in the public mind.
This year the gathering has special significance as it is 30 years since the last reported sighting of Ms Keenan.
That was 3 January 1994, when Ms Keenan was living in a rented apartment on William Street and left in the afternoon to carry out an errand.
“Everyone goes away for a while and maybe comes back, it could be only for a few hours. The next day we took it really serious and we got a lot of people on board to come to Waterford from Co Laois to do a bit of a search,” Gerry Keenan said.
But that search, despite huge efforts, has so far been to no avail.
“It really has taken its toll on the family. Some of our siblings have went to their grave, like my own mother, and all went with broken hearts, not knowing what ever happened to our little sister,” Mr Keenan said.
He has his own “suspicions” about what happened.
“I think there was foul play committed, somewhere along the line. I cannot point the finger at anybody, I can’t point the gun at anybody, I do have my suspicions and down through the years, for the last 30 years those suspicions stayed with me. In my own heart. I think our sister was murdered,” he said.
His, and Ms Keenan’s, niece Gina Kerry agrees.
“My family knew basically from the start that Imelda [was] murdered, something happened to her, because it’s not in her character to run off,” she said.
“Imelda was doing a computer course at the time she went missing and I know if she was alive today she would Google her name, she would look in and see how devastated her family are, how we keep looking for her and I don’t think she’d make her family suffer, I think she would check in and say ‘look, I’m okay, stop looking,’ so that makes us really believe that Imelda is not with us, that Imelda died that Christmas,” Ms Kerry said.
Family hope investigation will be upgraded to murder inquiry
They hope that the investigation will eventually be upgraded to a murder inquiry, but the last year has given them some encouragement.
Ms Kerry said: “We did a lot of campaigning and appeals, and a lot of people have come forward with information, so I think this year has been more intense but more positive and given us more hope that we might get answers.”
They still want people to come forward with any scrap of knowledge that could prove useful.
“Let it be small, or anything smaller than small,” Mr Keenan said.
“Anything that’s relevant to the case, that might bridge some kind of a gap or put that jigsaw puzzle together for us, any information at this stage is relevant.
“We need that information, we need it so badly. Thirty years is a terrible long time to carry pain. Can we go on another year or two? I doubt it, the pain is so bad,” he said.
Ms Keenan’s brother smiles as he describes her.
“A young country girl, very shy, loved the music as music was in her family. I know her favourite group was The Bangles, she kept on singing The Bangles, morning, noon and night and these are the good memories that I have of Imelda. They’ll never go away,” he said.
Or, as Ms Kerry puts it: “She’s always in our hearts. We’ll never forget Imelda and we’ll keep fighting the fight until we find out what happened.”