THE body of a heavily pregnant woman, reported missing by her distraught family on Wednesday night, was found in the Irish Sea yesterday.
Gardai confirmed that Anna Byrne (35) was found near the Bailey lighthouse off Howth, north county Dublin, by a garda helicopter at dawn.
Ms Byrne was 38 weeks pregnant with twins and also had two other children.
The alarm was raised when she failed to pick up one of her children, understood to be a toddler, from a local creche in Meath on Wednesday.
It's understood that Ms Byrne, nee Deeney, grew up in the Bayside area of Sutton, north county Dublin, where her family still resides.
Her brother Ciaran Deeney, a filmmaker, organised a late-night search party on Wednesday in the seaside town of Dun Laoghaire.
Gardai had informed him earlier that a phone signal from his sister's mobile phone had been traced to that area.
He initially believed that she had gone to the seaside port in order to take a ferry to the UK but later learned that there were no ferries leaving yesterday.
Speaking on Wednesday night, Mr Deeney said she was "highly hormonal" due to her pregnancy and it was uncharacteristic of her to vanish.
He and other members of her family, including her sister Lisa Deeney who is a journalist at a regional newspaper, were too distraught to comment on the tragedy yesterday. Ms Byrne was a married nurse who also had another young child attending a local primary school.
A garda spokesman said that the body was positively identified as that of Ms Byrne at around 10am yesterday.
Her body was taken to James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown for a post-mortem exam.
Gardai are treating the incident as a personal tragedy.
Her blue Nissan Micra car was found at the summit car park at Howth Head around midnight on Wednesday.
The Dublin Coast Guard helicopter and the Howth Coast Guard team conducted a search of the area until 3.30am yesterday morning.
The garda helicopter spotted her body at first light yesterday and a team was sent to retrieve the body.
However, conditions were deemed too dangerous and the Howth RNLI lifeboat was then sent to bring the body ashore.
Local Co Meath councillor Maria Murphy (FG) said Ms Byrne, her husband and their children had lived in the Beechdale housing estate in Dunboyne for the past five years.
She said the family was not well known in the area but the local community was stunned by the tragedy.
"People are just shocked. It's your worst nightmare," she told the Irish Independent.
"Everyone is very sympathetic to what the family is going through," she said.