Family’s desperate plea to find ‘fun-loving’ mum last seen in South London pub

The family of Bernadette Cooper, who was last seen in January 1993, have launched a fresh appeal for information regarding her mysterious disappearance.

The last sighting of the 49-year-old mother of three was at the Horse and Groom pub (now known as the Graveney and Meadow) in Tooting Broadway, South London, before she vanished without a trace.

Her family have spent three nearly three decades looking for her with various agencies worldwide including the police.

Her nephew, Leon Moore, has spent the last two and a half years carrying out his own investigation into her mysterious disappearance, and is now hoping that a new bid for information will shed light on her last known whereabouts.

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Speaking of her disappearance, he said: “This was totally out of character for her. She has three children, and now grandchildren, that she’s never met. She just would not leave them without saying goodbye. That’s not her.

“She was outgoing, gregarious, and had a warm personality. She was a very fun-loving person, who enjoyed having a drink and a laugh, and going to her local Bingo Hall.”

Bernadette, originally from County Monaghan, Ireland, settled in London in the 1960s before relocating to Benalmadena, near Malaga in Spain with her second husband Brian during the 1980s.

Together they owned and ran a popular Irish bar called Molly Malones, which formed part of Bernadette’s “lifelong dream to live in the sunshine”.

Benalmadena Beach, Spain, where Bernadette had owned and ran the Irish bar Molly Malones

However, the subsequent breakdown of their marriage led to Brian returning to the UK in 1991, and the following year Bernadette was forced to temporarily close the bar due to financial difficulties brought on by the recession in Spain.

She returned to London in late 1992, where she spent less than a month planning to raise funds and to finalise her divorce.

In early January 1993, she visited the Horse and Groom pub in Tooting Broadway, where she made a phone call to a friend, Tony Bell, the President of the Irish Bar Owners Association in Spain, and said: “I’ve got the money to pay my debts, I’m on my way back to Spain.”

According to Mr Bell, Bernadette was “absolutely elated” during the phone call, and had instructed him to inform the leaseholder not to touch or sell the bar, and that she was due to return imminently.

This is the last known sighting of Bernadette before she disappeared that can be verified.

Her family thought she had travelled back to the Costa del Sol, and her lack of communication was related to difficulties that had arisen in relation to her financial situation.

Bernadette called a friend from The Horse & Groom pub, now known as the Graveney and Meadow

Bernadette called a friend from The Horse & Groom pub, now known as the Graveney and Meadow

Leon said: “As she had found it difficult to raise the funds, tensions were raised, and so when it was believed that she had returned to Spain, the family let her be for a while.

“What you’ve got to remember at the time was that there were no mobile phones, no computers – you couldn’t email or text someone. To phone someone from Spain cost a fortune.

“The family were sending letters, sending postcards, phoning her, trying to get in touch with her, but there was no reply. So they assumed that she had maybe taken offence and needed some space, but the sad reality was that she wasn’t there.

“When her sister finally went down to Spain to see her in person, you can imagine her surprise when she went into the bar to find a different owner and all of Bernadette’s stuff gathering dust in the attic,” Leon said. “That was a very bad moment for our family.”

Later investigations have shown that there had been no movement on Bernadette’s passport or bank account, and no clues as to where she could have raised the funds.

In their bid for information, the family spoke to friends, acquaintances and associates in London, Ireland and Spain, before turning to the Missing Persons Bureau, the Salvation Army, private investigators and the Metropolitan Police.

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“Everyone knows how important and vital the first 48 hours are in a missing person’s case. But if you don’t know somebody is missing, as was the case with Bernadette, and you are starting the search 10 or 11 months down the line, you are absolutely up against it,” said Leon.

During the initial stages of the investigation, a lot of anonymous phone calls, offering tips and sightings regarding Bernadette’s whereabouts, started to come in to the family. All turned out to be false trails and dead-ends, causing an enormous amount of torment to her family and loved ones.

Leon is now hoping that this fresh appeal for information will encourage someone to come forward with a crucial piece of evidence.

“We are looking for someone to fill in the final pieces of the puzzle,” he said. “There is someone out there who must know what happened to Bernadette. We urge them to now come forward. Somebody knows, and we need their help to find her, in whatever way that may be, and heal as a family.

“I am absolutely determined to find out what happened to Bernadette. I am not going to stop pressuring the police to keep her case alive, or appealing to the public until we solve this case and bring her home in peace, because there is an explanation somewhere.”

Anyone with information on the disappearance of Bernadette Cooper can call 07410 899 091 in strictest confidence, or send a message to [email protected] . Alternatively, anonymous tips can be left at

Do you have a story you think we should be covering? If so, email [email protected]

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