MURDERED Elaine O'Hara told friends that she was in a violent relationship shortly before she disappeared.
In a significant development, a number of witnesses who knew the 36-year-old retail worker and childcare assistant from Killiney, Co Dublin, came forward with information after her skeletal remains were found in the Dublin Mountains two weeks ago.
One key witness who claims that Elaine talked about a violent relationship with a man she met online was interviewed by detectives last week. It is understood Ms O'Hara did not divulge the identity of this person but indicated that he was a "professional".
Detectives have separately identified up to five people they believe she was in contact with on an adult website in the days before she died.
They have retraced online messages from Ms O'Hara's computer, and others from the mobile phone they believe she had with her when she was last seen. But detectives are working to establish their real identities as they are understood to have used pseudonyms online.
Gardai regard them as "persons of interest" as opposed to suspects at this stage.
The discovery of Ms O'Hara's mobile phone has proved crucial to the investigation, providing a trail of text messages and telephone numbers that have allowed detectives to narrow down those she was most in contact with before she died.
Ms O'Hara was an active user of adult websites and gardai believe that she met her killer online.
The phone was one of two that she kept, using one for her daily contacts and a second private one. Her everyday mobile was found in her apartment after she was reported missing in August last year.
The second was recovered by chance, from a reservoir in Wicklow, just days after Ms O'Hara's remains were recovered some 20km away on Killakee Mountain.
Ms O'Hara was last seen alive on August 22 last year. It has since emerged that she had been treated in hospital for anxiety and stress just days earlier. She left her apartment in Stepaside, south Dublin, at 5.05pm and her car was later found near Shanganagh Cemetery.
Gardai launched several missing person appeals but no leads emerged. Detectives now suspect that she was dead within hours of leaving her home, after arranging to meet the person who killed her.
Ms O'Hara's remains lay above ground in undergrowth at Killakee Mountain for more than a year. Her partial remains were discovered in a forested area of the mountain by a woman who was walking her dog a fortnight ago.
In an unusual coincidence, a set of hand and leg restraints were found two days earlier in the Vartry reservoir in Wicklow. The discovery prompted a further search of the reservoir by gardai, who found items later identified as Ms O'Hara's, including her swipe card for Dunnes Stores, where she worked, and her mobile phone.