Family desperate to find missing Munterconnaught woman
The family of a Munterconnaught woman, who went missing in Lisbon two and a half years ago, have said they are frustrated by the lack of progress by Portuguese police investigating her disappearance.
Jean Tighe was last seen in July 2020, aged 38 years, and according to her sister Leona, who lives in New York, she often travelled alone.
“Jean was very independent and had done a lot of travelling by herself and to go to places make friends. She was a very good person, she’d never see you stuck or lost or needing anything, but she was very streetwise and she would know if somebody was trying to pull the wool over her eyes. She spent several months in Portugal. She had been home to Ireland and had booked a flight home just before her disappearance.”
Leona feels that authorities in Portugal haven’t investigated her sister’s disappearance thoroughly.
“Jean’s boyfriend reported her missing on July 15-16,” Leona says
“We’ve pinned down ourselves that Jean went missing on the afternoon of July 13.
“She was last seen leaving a hostel. The police apparently did go down to the hostel. But we’ve never been able to ascertain whether they did or they didn’t look at CCTV.”
Leona believes that footage may contain vital clues as to what happened to her sister.
“Outside the hostel, there is a taxi rank, it’s a stone’s throw from the train station and it is near a motorway. So there are lots of CCTV cameras. Did they interview anyone at the hostel at the time? I don’t think so. Because I’m imagining that, if they did do that, we would know by now. Some people are telling us it’s too late to look at the CCTV now, but everything is in the cloud, so it’s up to the Portuguese police to pull out all the stops.”
Thanks to a Portuguese investigative journalist called Michael Pereira, who took an interest in the case, the family have found out that Jean was last seen by a hostel worker leaving the hostel with her handbag and meeting a Brazilian, yet Leona doesn’t believe either of these leads have been followed up.
“Michael Pereira has been a God send. He’s like a detective. We have never spoken to the worker who made that claim. We have never been able to find out who the man she met was. Michael found out the hostel workers had never been interviewed and we’ve never been able to locate the Brazilian friend that Jean was seen with. Those two people need to be questioned. Unfortunately, we can’t speak to her boyfriend because he has passed away since,” reveals Leona.
The family’s early efforts to trace Jean were hindered by Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Despite being missing for over two and a half years, Jean is still not officially on the missing person’s list in Portugal, which Leona says is hard to comprehend.
“We were told that the police didn’t want to put Jean on a missing person list, because they were investigating her disappearance and they don’t want to alarm any potential suspects, I thought they were joking with me,” relays Leona.
She understands that three backpackers who went missing after Jean disappeared are on the Missing Person list.
“They [police] keep telling us that Jean has the right to go missing,” adds her sister.
Leona doesn’t believe that police in Portugal have looked into Jean’s bank records or social media accounts. Leona claims her sister’s WhatsApp and Instagram accounts were being used up until February 2021, months after her disappearance.
“We’ve gotten onto Meta who own Facebook, Instagram WhatsApp and Match.com, a dating website Jean was on.
They said that, if the investigating police send a letter with a case number and give them a point of contact, they will release that information, but the police won’t do this. As Jean’s case is under criminal investigation in Portugal, the bank needs a letter from them to release her info. They’re not going to release the stuff to civilians,” says a frustrated Leona.
The family also want a list of guest names who were staying there around the time Jean went missing.
Leona is also calling on the Irish authorities to do more to help.
“We were told that Portuguese police will not move unless your government puts pressure on them. Brendan Smith has kept in contact with us and liaised with the Department of Foreign Affairs but they are saying it’s up to the Portuguese because it is their jurisdiction. Jean is Irish so she’s entitled to a full investigation,” says Leona.
Jean’s disappearance has been hard on the family.
“We’re just heartbroken and devastated. It has taken its toll on everybody,” reveals Leona, adding the family have many unanswered questions.
“It’s shocking,” says Leona. “It’s not fair on her. Everyone is entitled to the basics of an investigation. There’s no evidence to substantiate or disprove anything. Something terrible could have happened and we don’t know.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs, An Garda Síochána, Portuguese authorities and Interpol were all contacted by The Anglo-Celt for comment in relation to the disappearance.
A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed it is aware of the case and is providing consular assistance. “However, as with all consular cases, the Department does not comment on the details of any specific case,” said the spokesperson.
An Garda Síochána said: “The disappearance of Jean Tighe is being investigated by the Portuguese authorities. The disappearance of Jean Tighe was also reported to An Garda Síochána at Mountjoy and An Garda Síochána have and will continue to carry out local enquiries to assist the Portuguese authorities with this investigation.
“At all times, any information that has come to the attention of An Garda Síochána in respect of missing person Jean Tighe has been forwarded through the appropriate channels (Interpol) for the attention of the Portuguese authorities.”