Gardaí investigating the murder of two men in Sligo town in recent days have assured potential witnesses of compassion and confidentiality.
Tributes were paid to Aidan Moffitt (42) and Michael Snee (58) who were murdered in their homes in separate violent attacks in recent days.
Gardaí believe they met their killer on a gay dating app before letting him into their homes. A 22-year-old man has been arrested and remains in Garda custody.
"Michael and Aidan were well known and respected in this community," said Sligo Chief Superintendent Aidan Glacken. "They were assaulted and murdered in their own homes. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this time and indeed their friends and the wider community in Sligo."
Two separate murder investigations are under way, with separate senior investigating officers. However, Garda sources were increasingly confident on Wednesday night that both murders were carried out by the same person.
Both murder scenes and the suspect’s home remained sealed off last night for technical examination.
Although they are not activity searching for any other suspects, gardaí are keen to speak with locals, including members of the gay community, who may have information.
“Gardaí are also investigating whether Michael and Aidan met their attacker online. Meeting people online is a normal activity. Meeting people online should be a safe activity. But as with any online activity everybody should be aware of personal safety advice,” Chief Supt Glacken said, directing people to safety advice published on the Garda website.
He appealed to anyone “who may have been subject of any unwanted approaches or who was assaulted or otherwise attacked” to contact gardaí.
“I have a dedicated diversity team here, we need to hear from you, we are here to listen to you and we are here to support you.”
He assured potential witnesses “that all any information received will be treated in the strictest confidence”.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she had spoken to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about the "atrocious crimes" in Sligo.
She said the commissioner had assured her every effort would be made to find those responsible and bring them to justice. She urged anyone with information to come forward.
“I would also like to express my deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Aidan Moffitt, and to the friends and family of the man who was also killed last night. They are in our thoughts today.”
Ms McEntee also noted it had been a difficult week for the LGBT community with a number of distressing incidents.
“These are incidents that we thought were behind us. And again, I just want to reassure people that any crimes that are motivated by hate or by prejudice or by discrimination, will not be tolerated and will carry higher sentences. I hope to introduce the hate crime Bill in a matter of weeks to respond.”
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he is "deeply troubled" over the killings and that he is concerned about the possible motive of the attacker. Gardaí are examining if there is a "hate motive" for the murders.
Mr Snee was a care assistant in a local hospital. He was described by locals who knew him as a quiet, kind man who mostly kept to himself.
Mr Moffitt, who was originally from Roscommon, was a Fine Gael activist who was self-employed in a property business and as a financial adviser.
A vigil for both victims is being planned for Friday by the Sligo Pride organisation.