A BROKEN-HEARTED father gazed in stunned silence as the body of his murdered son lay just yards away.
The winter wonderland beauty of one of the most scenic parts of Ireland bore mute testimony to another brutal gangland murder.
The 33-year-old was either lured – or forcibly brought – to Trooperstown Wood in north Wicklow where he was badly beaten before being killed. A life of crime, involving a prison sentence, and possession of firearms and drugs, had come to a grim end.
It was the second attempt on his life and this time it was clinically successful.
For his anguished father Brendan (pictured right) it was a harrowing end to two-and-a-half weeks of turmoil following the disappearance of his son.
The body was discovered a relatively short distance from a carpark adjoining Trooperstown Forest Recreation Area.
The location would still have given his attackers good cover under darkness to carry out the murder – the nearest houses dotted around the countryside are at least a few hundred yards away. Torrential rain poured down on the scene of desolation, brought about by another round of vicious gangland violence.
Fr James Sheeran of St Peter's Parish, Fassaroe, Bray, told the Irish Independent that the family had been through an "unimaginable ordeal" since his disappearance.
"Locals were just stunned by his disappearance. I know things are pretty awful for the family at the moment and they were in such a terrible state when he went missing," he said.
The body was discovered early yesterday, after extensive garda enquiries and an emotional appeal by the distraught father of Mr O'Toole in recent days for information as to his whereabouts.
Gardai preserved the scene overnight pending the outcome of a more detailed examination this morning.
Last night, the victim's partner and seven-month-old child were absent from the family home in Meadow's Lane, Arklow.
"They've been away all day. I think they're staying with friends,'' said a neighbour.
The body was hidden from public view in the wood which lies near the picturesque village of Laragh, just a few miles south of where Mr O'Toole's father lives in Bray.
Sources confirmed that while his partner and child continued to live in Arklow the victim has recently been staying at various addresses, fearful there would be another attack on his life.
As the winter gloom enveloped Trooperstown Wood last night, arrangements were being made to move the body of Philip O'Toole from the scene.
But for his parents, his partner and child, there is the heartbreak for a man, whatever his faults, cut down in the prime of life.