GARDAI have confirmed that the skeletal remains found in the Dublin Mountains are those of a young woman.
The remains were found concealed in undergrowth by a woman out walking her dog on Friday night.
A Garda search yesterday recovered bones which are now being forensically examined by state scientists which they expect will yield a DNA sample.
Gardai are investigating a potential link between 20 missing women.
A tibia and a fibia, a fragment of pelvic bone and a jawbone with some of the teeth still intact have so far been recovered in the search.
Clothing was also found, scattered in the vicinity of the bones, including a sock, a size eight runner and a fragment of a tracksuit bottom.
The state pathologist has indicated to detectives that the remains are more than likely that of a young woman or a teenage boy, sources said.
The bones and clothing were sent for analysis last night at the state pathologists' office in Dublin.
Gardai were hopeful that a DNA sample will be obtained from the teeth and bones which can then be matched with the DNA samples on the Garda's missing person's database. Gardai would not comment on the possible identity of the remains and it was too early to say how long the remains lay undiscovered in the undergrowth.
But the grim discovery has raised hopes that the body could be one of the missing women whose disappearance was investigated in Operation Trace. The location at Killakee is close to where American student Annie McCarrick, 26, disappeared in March 1993 and on a direct route to the landmark pub Johnnie Fox's where she was last seen alive.
The site of the grim discovery is also above Rathfarnham, where Eva Brennan, 39, disappeared in July the same year and is also believed to have been murdered.
The area has a history for the discovery of women's remains. Antoinette Smith, a 27-year-old separated mother of two, went missing in July 1987. Her body was discovered the following June in a shallow grave a few miles from the scene of Friday's discovery. She had been strangled. Patricia Doherty, a 34-year-old mother of two, disappeared on December 23, 1991. In June 1992, her remains were found by men digging turf also in Killakee. Annie McCarrick, 26, was last seen in the company of a well-built man at Johnnie Fox's pub in Glencullen just over five miles from the scene of yesterday's discovery.
The schoolboy, Philip Cairns, 14, vanished on his way to Colaiste Eanne school in Rathfarnham in 1986. His schoolbag was discovered in a laneway but his body has never been found.
The skeleton was found last Friday evening when the owner of private forestry in Killakee was walking her dog on her land. The dog disappeared into undergrowth and refused to come out, it is understood. The woman followed her dog and found the remains.
The body was found about 200 metres from the Killakee Road and shielded from sight by a line of fir trees. The body was deliberately hidden, gardai believe. There was no indication of whether the woman, or teenage boy, was killed in situ or elsewhere and the body driven to the forest.
The scene was examined by State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis and Garda forensic officers. Sources said it was too early to determine how long the body had been there. The search is expected to continue for at least another week until gardai have recovered all the body parts.
The site where the body was found on Friday is also close to the scene where 31-year-old Patricia O'Toole was murdered by former Army private Sean Courtney in September 1991. Patricia Furlong, 21, was raped and strangled and her body left in a field after a festival in Glencullen in July 1982. And Layla Brennan, 25, was also strangled and her body left near the Hellfire Club in Killakee in March 1999. Layla's sometime boyfriend, Philip Colgan, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2000 for her murder. No attempts were made to hide these women's bodies.
- Jim Cusack and Maeve Sheehan