THE smiling face of Elaine O'Hara depicted on the missing persons posters became weather-beaten and tattered as the weeks ticked by.
Her trail had gone quietly cold.
More than a year after her family last saw Ms O'Hara at their Dublin home on August 22, 2012, that dreaded call came from gardai to tell them they believed her remains had been found – by a woman walking in the Dublin Mountains, in a remote wooded area in Kilakee, at the foot of the hilly range in Rathfarnham, on Friday, September 13.
Her body had not been buried but had simply sunk into the ground as decomposition set in.
A wide search of the area unearthed bones, a pair of size seven runners and size 16 tracksuit bottoms – it was these that gave detectives a hint as Ms O'Hara had been described as being heavy-set.
Yet an even more unusual coincidence led directly to the arrest of a man yesterday. The exceptionally dry summer had resulted in dwindling water levels at Vartry Reservoir, near Roundwood.
And, on September 11, just two days before Ms O'Hara's body was found 20km away, a caretaker fished some items out of shallow water, including a key fob with a Dunnes Stores loyalty number on it.
Detectives returned to re-examine the spot in Roundwood where the items were found, and spotted clothing which could have fitted Elaine, two mobile phones, handcuffs and anklecuffs, and other items.
It was confirmed the key fob belonged to Ms O'Hara, and had not been used for over a year. It is understood the initial investigations had shown Ms O'Hara had been visiting specific websites.
Gardai returned to examine traffic through those websites and her e-mails, and it was the electronic trail that led them to make an arrest.