The search of woodland in the Slieve Bloom Mountains, as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Fiona Pender, will resume at tomorrow morning.

Gardaí sealed off a wooded area in the mountains this morning as part of a search for the remains of the missing Offaly woman.

Last May, a small wooden cross with Ms Pender's name written on it was found close to a walkway at Monicknew in the mountain range.

A two-day search by garda technical experts failed to recover Ms Pender's remains and the search was called off.

Recently an expert who has been used in several high-profile searches across the world carried out a week-long examination at Monicknew.

His report led gardaí to recommence the search at the wood and it is understood the search area could run to several acres and take more than one week.

Ms Pender went missing from the flat where she lived on Church Street in Tullamore on 22 August 1996. She 25 years old and eight months' pregnant.

It is understood that garda technical experts are being assisted by members of the defence forces in this latest search.

Ms Pender's mother has said finding the body of her daughter is more important to her than finding the person that could have been responsible for her disappearance.

Josephine Pender said she will never give up hope of finding Fiona's body, and she is very hopeful this latest search could yield positive results.

Mrs Pender, who lives in Tullamore, said if her daughter's body is found the family will have to face the dreadful reality that she has been left there for more than 12 years.