Missing Jean Tighe.

‘For every answer we get, there are more questions’

Three and a half years after her sister Jean disappeared in Portugal, Leona Tighe says that the pain of still not knowing Jean’s whereabouts hasn’t diminished. That pain was felt sharply when Leona spoke at an event in Croke Park recently to commemorate National Missing Person’s Day.

“It was a very hard day, I was watching it online and I nearly couldn’t watch it,” said Leona who lives in New York and addressed the event via a pre recorded video.

“It’s a very sad day, you’re grieving and it’s such a traumatic thing to happen but, at the same time, there’s an ongoing battle to find Jean. There’s two things going on at the same time, so you don’t know where you are.”

Munterconnaught woman Jean Tighe was last seen in Portugal, leaving a hostel alone in the capital Lisbon in July 2020. The then 38-year-old, had been living in Portugal for several months.

Leona said the commemoration was a good opportunity to highlight Jean’s case.

“It’s important to have the day as people get in touch with you afterwards. You can share suggestions and ideas about what works and what doesn’t work [in terms of the search for missing loved ones].”

Leona maintains a deep sense of frustration and feels Jean’s disappearance was never fully investigated by Portugese authorities and says key witnesses have yet to be contacted.

“We’re only getting to places now that we should have been three years ago. That’s the sad part of it, time is so precious to get clues, answers and to jog people’s memories.

“Jean was reported missing within days of disappearing. There was no proper investigation done at the time because obviously we would have been contacted,” contended Leona.

Jean’s boyfriend at the time was the one who reported her missing. He has since passed away.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the case, says Leona, is the poor communication between authorities in Ireland and Portugal, which she feels has slowed down the investigation.

“She was added to the missing persons list in Portugal in July 2023, she was meant to be added to the Irish missing persons list but that has not happened yet,” Leona stated.

The family is keeping the pressure on authorities but the language barrier is an issue.

“Nobody is fighting for Jean apart from us. But we can’t do it on our own, but we have to keep it up. I don’t know what type of investigation is going on. The Portuguese are waiting on correspondence from Gardaí to investigate things like her social media and bank accounts. They sent a request for info and it hasn’t been actioned.

“It’s hard to go chasing up people, to see what’s been done. It was confirmed to me recently that they’re waiting on Irish police to send information. For every answer we get there are more questions,” said a frustrated Leona.

There are also inconsistencies in some aspects of the case, according to Leona.

“It’s very worrying. Nobody can come up with a reasonable explanation. Her body has never been recovered. A detective said he was 99% sure she didn’t take her own life. He said the case had moved on to the judicial police but encouraged us to keep looking for info.

“He said he didn’t like a couple of things about the case, and neither did I,” continued Leona.

“There needs to be an appeal for information from people who were staying at the hostel to come forward,” she added.

Despite better contact from Portuguese authorities, Leona says their investigation still leaves a lot to be desired.

“Portuguese police are communicating with us, but aren’t very proactive. We’re the ones pushing the case. They’re not very sympathetic. A few times when we asked for information they shouted at us on the phone.

“There’s also never been a boots-on-the-ground investigation,” claimed Leona.

“Jean went off with her handbag, left everything else behind her, but never came back.”