Gardaí question man about death of woman whose body was found in burning car

Detectives arrest suspect about what they describe as ‘unlawful killing’ in Cork of Mary O’Keeffe

Gardaí were last night questioning a 62-year-old man about the death of a woman whose body was found in the front seat of a burning car in a forest in north Co Cork on Thursday.

Detectives arrested the suspect for questioning about what they described as “the unlawful killing” of Mary O’Keeffe (72) from Dromahane near Mallow.

The man was arrested at 3.50pm on Friday after he was discharged from Cork University Hospital (CUH), where he had been brought following his rescue from the Awbeg river near Doneraile on Thursday.

He had been pulled from the river by members of the Armed Support Unit some 3km from where Ms O’Keeffe’s body was found in the car in Dromdeer Wood, 5km from Doneraile.


The man, who has a family back in Co Limerick, had been taken to CUH by ambulance for treatment for hypothermia and some minor burns believed to have been sustained in the fire which destroyed the car.

Meanwhile, gardaí on Friday night were tightlipped about the results of a postmortem on the body of Ms O’Keeffe carried out by assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster at CUH.

Dr Bolster on Friday morning spent two hours examining Ms O’Keeffe’s body in the front seat of the badly burned car, which is registered to the suspect.

Ms O’Keeffe’s body was then moved to CUH, where Dr Bolster carried out a postmortem before making gardaí aware of her findings.

It is understood that Dr Bolster took a number of samples for further analysis to try to establish how exactly Ms O’Keeffe died.

Gardaí are hoping that these further tests, which will take a number of weeks to complete, will indicate whether Ms O’Keeffe was alive or dead when the car went on fire.

Technical experts

Members of the Garda Technical Bureau travelled to Dromdeer on Friday and examined the car at the scene before it was removed to a secure location for further forensic examination. It is understood that technical experts have not yet established whether or not an accelerant was used to start the fire, but are hopeful that this can be clarified.

Garda technical experts will also examine Ms O’Keeffe’s Ford Ecosport in which she made her way to Dromdeer. The vehicle was parked about 1km from the burned car.

Investigators have also started examining mobile phone records and text messages between Ms O’Keeffe and the suspect to see if they shed any light on what exactly happened to her.

They have established that the suspect made a number of calls to family members on Thursday afternoon, including one to a close relative who subsequently drove to Dromdeer Wood.

The relative was at the scene when firefighters from Mallow arrived at around 3.20pm after being alerted to the blaze by a passer-by. It is understood the relative was able to tell firefighters that there was a woman in the burning car, and that the suspect had left the scene and gone off across fields towards the Awbeg river.

A native of Lombardstown, Ms O’Keeffe worked as a cook at Mallow Sheltered Care at Summerhill. She was widowed many years ago, and is survived by three adult sons.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times