Her mother’s sister, Imelda Keenan, vanished without trace on Jan 3, 1994, but, two decades later, her family still clings to the hope of unravelling the mystery behind her disappearance.
Over the years, Imelda’s family has staged regular memorial events to mark the date of her disappearance and the birthdays she never got to celebrate. Such events are designed to keep awareness of her aunt alive in the public consciousness, Gina says.
“This year, we’ve decided to mark that day by visiting Imelda’s parents’ grave to say a few prayers and light a few candles,” she says.
Imelda was last seen at Lombard St, Waterford, at 1.30pm on Jan 3. Unemployed at the time, she was undertaking a computer course at the CTI, Parnell St, and had been living in a flat on William St with her boyfriend, Mark Wall. On the day of her disappearance, she had no belongings with her, no change of clothes and very little money, Gina says. To this day, her credit union account is untouched.
She was reported missing by Mark on Jan 3, but repeated searches of the river and surrounding areas yielded nothing. Her case remains open with Waterford Garda.
Gina says Imelda had moved to Waterford from Mountmellick because a brother of hers was living there at the time. She was no more than 16 years of age. She subsequently met Mark and they later got engaged. She was with him five years at the time of her disappearance.
At Christmas 1994, she sent cards to her family wishing them a happy festive season. Her brother Ned, who has since passed away, was the last relative to speak to her, roughly two weeks before Christmas.
Gina says that, on the day her aunt went missing, Mark contacted Ned and told him. Initially, Ned wasn’t unduly worried, saying she’d only been gone a couple of hours. By that night, he was out looking for her with Mark. Gina was in Mountmellick at the time, living with her granny, Imelda’s mother.
“I was there when the gardaí called that night and told granny that Imelda was missing,” Gina says. “I’ll never forget it because it was just me and Granny in the house.
“When she shut the door I could see she was shocked. I said: ‘Don’t worry, she’ll turn up. She’s probably gone to a party or something.’ ” Gina was just 15 years old at the time.
She says her aunt was a quiet, gentle girl, introverted and placid, never in trouble, someone who didn’t have a big circle of friends, but who loved looking after nieces and nephews whenever she visited Mountmellick.
At the time of her disappearance, searches took place but nothing turned up. “Nobody was arrested, people were brought in for interview, family, her boyfriend, but there were no suspects,” says Gina
Her aunt’s disappearance “destroyed the whole family”, Gina adds. “A lot of marriages broke up under the strain and pressure of it all.”
Imelda’s mother passed away in 2008, but Gina, now 34, is determined to find out what happened her aunt because she had told her grandmother she would not give up. She maintains a Facebook page displaying photos of her aunt and details of her disappearance. A couple of years ago, they had a plaque in honour of Imelda installed on a bridge over John’s River, near where she was last seen. In 2009, the family offered a €10,000 reward for new information. Gina says they have their suspicions as to what happened but just want to find concrete evidence.
“Maybe after 20 years people who were afraid to speak up at the time may no longer fear to do so,” says Gina. “If they could do it now — the smallest little bit of information, it may mean nothing to them but it might to us.”
For more details about Gina, see www.exa.mn/1ky or search Facebook for “missing Imelda Keenan”.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Waterford Garda Station on 051 874 888 or the Missing Persons Bureau at Garda Headquarters on 01 666 2615 or email email@example.com