BRITISH police have reopened an investigation into the disappearance of an expat 27 years after she was last seen.
Bernadette Cooper vanished without a trace, leaving behind a 13-year-old son, loving extended family in Ireland and the UK, and many friends in Benalmadena on Spain’s Costa del Sol.
Now, as her 77th birthday approaches on June 20, her family has put out an appeal for anyone who knew Bernadette or has any information about her – no matter how insignificant it may seem – to come forward.
Her nephew, Leon Moore, 61, said: “It was so out of character for her to just disappear. She was a very feisty, determined and liked lady. It is inconceivable that she would just decide to disappear.”
The last known contact with Bernadette was a phone call to a friend in Spain announcing she was about to return to reopen her bar.
She had run Molly Malone’s pub, which has no connection with the Molly Malones now in 24-Hour Square, but was the premises that is now trading as Wheels, Tapas and Punters on Ave Antonio Machado.
As her marriage crumbled and amidst the financial crisis that hit Spain and the UK in the early 1990s, she was forced to close the doors of her business as she struggled to pay the rent.
She returned to Mitcham (London) – where the County Monaghan-born (Ireland) woman had spent many years, to finalise a divorce from her estranged husband.
Bernadette was hoping to raise the cash to re-open – and it seems she had succeeded.
According to Leon, in January 1993 one of her friends in Spain received a triumphal phone call. “Do me a favour would you? Tell the lawyer acting for the bar that I have the funds… tell him don’t give the bar away, I am on my way back with the money.”
The message was passed on – but Bernadette never arrived.
That call was placed from The Horse and Groom public house in Tooting Broadway and it is the last known contact anyone has had with Bernadette since.
Over the years her family has never forgotten about her and has kept the search for Bernadette alive.
Leon explained: “The Irish family has been over to Spain numerous times – almost on an annual basis – and they always ask if anyone knows anything.”
“My father Jim – her brother – never gave up on her. Her disappearance really weighed on him. He has since passed away without knowing the answer to what had happened.
“This is some of the reason I am still pursuing this – but the whole family wants to know. It is an open wound that has never healed.
“If she decided she wanted to get away from everyone that’s fine. But if something bad happened we want whoever was responsible to be brought to justice.”
He added: “The news that Surrey Constabulary is investigating the case is fantastic.”
There have been some new leads which cannot be reported as investigations are ongoing. Leon said: “Various agencies, including The Salvation Army have tried to trace her without success in the intervening years; word of mouth among the Irish communities of England and Spain has produced no result
“But a fresh determination has blown life into the investigation in recent months and the British police have opened an official missing person enquiry. We will have to wait for advances in technology not present at the time she went missing to bear fruit, but the process has begun.
Leon added: “The British police have said that they will be approaching Spanish authorities over this. Any information about Bernadette in the UK or Spain could be very important.”