Search for missing pregnant woman moves to wooded area near motorway

Detectives searching for the body of missing pregnant woman Aoife Phelan have now launched a major search at the side of the M7 motorway.

Forensic teams, divers from the Garda Water Unit and other officers are painstakingly examining a wooded riverside area off the main Dublin to Limerick route, near Monasterevin, Co Kildare.

A large section of the motorway close to the Kildare/Laois border has been sealed off to allow investigators access to a steep embankment leading to the location along the River Barrow.

A separate search is continuing at the rear of a house in Ms Phelan’s home town, about 20 kms away.

Forensic experts are using a mini-digger and shovels to excavate ground at an address on Timahoe Road, in Portlaoise, Co Laois.

The sealed-off house was raided last night by investigating gardaí.

Garda sources also confirmed a 4x4 vehicle seized as part of the inquiry was undergoing technical examination with a number of personal possessions discovered in the vehicle.

“We are at a very active stage in the investigation,” said one source.

Ms Phelan, who was four months pregnant, was last seen on Thursday October 25 after meeting a friend in the town.

A 24-year-old local man, believed to be known to the 30-year-old childminder and was arrested yesterday afternoon, and remains in custody at Portlaoise garda station.

He is being held under section four of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984, and can be questioned for up to 24 hours.

A Garda press office spokeswoman said: “Searches are ongoing. It is a live investigation.”

Ms Phelan, from Cashel, Ballyroan in Portlaoise, had met a friend at the Borris Road roundabout in the town at about 6.30pm on October 25 and was last seen at 8.10pm that night when she left a friend’s house on Colliers View.

She worked as a live-in nanny at The Hermitage, Portlaoise and was in work until 6.15pm that evening. Her employer raised concerns the next day after she did not return to the house.

Ms Phelan’s family held a candlelit vigil last Friday in the town and prayed for her safe return.

Searches have been carried out at several locations in Portlaoise since Ms Phelan disappeared.

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