A search could begin within days for the body of Fiona Pender after new information came to light following the arrest of the main suspect in relation to separate alleged offences.
The partner of the man is in protective custody in another jurisdiction and is believed to be able to shed light on a possible burial place of the missing Tullamore woman, who was seven-months pregnant when she disappeared in 1996.
The woman came forward after she had been threatened by the suspect recently. She told police in the country where she is now living that the man had warned her that he had killed Fiona Pender and would kill her too.
The suspect was arrested and faces charges in relation to threats against his partner. He has been released on bail.
The latest development has been described as the most hopeful to date.
It is understood the suspect has yet to be interviewed by gardai and has denied threatening to kill the woman. He has not been formally questioned about the disappearance of Fiona Pender.
A year after Ms Pender’s disappearance, five people were arrested and interviewed by gardai but they were released without charge.
The unexplained disapperance sparked one of the largest garda operations in the midlands and resulted in large tracts of land being searched in Laois and Offaly, including areas in the Slieve Bloom mountains.
The most recent search took place at Monicknew after a makeshift cross was discovered with writing indicating that Fiona Pender had been buried there in 1996. However, the search yielded nothing.