Gardaí believe woman was killed due to long-running dispute

Man questioned after the discovery of dismembered remains in Co Wicklow

The home of Patricia O’Connor in Rathfarnham, Dublin. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

The home of Patricia O’Connor in Rathfarnham, Dublin. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

Gardaí believe Patricia O’Connor, the woman whose dismembered remains have been found scattered over a Wicklow roadside, was killed as part of a long-running dispute.

A 32-year-old man who was known to the deceased was still being questioned about the killing last night. He is the only suspect and presented himself to gardaí.

It was initially believed he was a crank because in the first days of the investigation, as body parts were being found and the deceased had not been identified, gardaí believed the victim was a man aged 25 years or older.

The suspect was not believed when he claimed he was behind the violent death and that the victim was a 61-year-old woman he was related to.

However, when the State Pathologist’s Office confirmed the victim was female on Tuesday and Ms O’Connor’s head was found, the suspect then became crucial to the inquiry.

He told the Garda he had dismembered Ms O’Connor, a mother and grandmother, in a field in Wexford and had made a crude attempt to bury her there before taking the remains away and scattering them over a 30km stretch of road in Co Wicklow.

The suspect took the Garda to the field in Wexford on Tuesday and when clear physical evidence, including blood, hair and signs of digging the earth were found, the man was arrested.

He has been detained since then for questioning in connection with the murder. The 24 hours gardaí could detain him for was due to expire in the early hours of Thursday morning and charges were expected to be brought in the case.

Gardaí believe the suspect and the Ms O’Connor were part of a close family-based group that had spent a lot of time together in recent years.

The deceased woman, who was estranged from her husband, left Dublin for the UK for a period and then returned to live in Ireland last year.

It is believed Ms O’Connor’s death, as a result of blows to the head sustained during a violent assault, was the result of long-running tensions coming to a climax.

Detectives are working on the theory that when Ms O’Connor’s attacker killed her he panicked and did not know how to dispose of the body.

She died in her house in Rathfarnham, where she had lived on and off for years. Detectives suspect her killing may have been a spur of the moment incident and during the course of an argument.

Remains inside

Gardaí believe her killer then drove his vehicle with Ms O’Connor’s remains inside to Kilmuckridge, Co Wexford, where she was dismembered and partially buried in a field.

The man appears to have left the remains in the field before returning and exhuming the body parts from the earth and throwing them from his vehicle on the drive back to Dublin via Wicklow.

On Saturday people out walking found the large part of a torso and a huge search operation commenced. It is ongoing and so far remains have been found in 10 locations; including Ms O’Connor’s hands and head in plastic bags.

Ms O’Connor worked as a chef at Mount Carmel Hospital in Churchtown.

From Mountain View Park in Rathfarnham, she was described on Wednesday night by neighbours as a “lovely person”. It is believed she was not living in the Rathfarnham address, but visited the property very regularly.

One resident on the street, who lived opposite the O’Connor’s, said they were a normal family.

“We’d know everyone around here, we’d all be very familiar with each other,” she said. “She hadn’t lived in the house for about 10 years so I wouldn’t be as familiar with her. It’s a small street, usually full of kids playing, but it’s quiet out today. It’s just a shocking thing to happen.”

Throughout yesterday, gardaí called in to various residents on the street looking to see if any neighbours had information about the family.

Another neighbour, a father of a young family who lived directly across the road from the O’Connor’s home, said the house was always lively and full of children playing in the garden.

“They were a normal family. She had plenty of grandchildren. I wouldn’t have been as familiar with her now, but I was shocked when I heard everything.”