THE home of a young mother of three was deliberately set on fire in a bid to cover up her fatal stabbing.
Gardai are now investigating whether the murder of Olivia Dunlea-O’Brien (36) was linked to a dispute she became embroiled in last Saturday evening as she returned home from socialising.
The badly burned body of the young woman was discovered in an upstairs bedroom of her semi-detached home in Passage West, Cork early yesterday morning.
Gardai have arrested a young man in connection with their inquiries into Ms Dunlea-O’Brien’s death.
He is being questioned at Togher Garda Station on suspicion of murder and can be held for up to 24 hours.
The man, who is in his 30s and is believed to have been known to the dead woman, is from the Passage West area.
The scene remains sealed off and detectives are now awaiting the results of key toxicology and forensic tests.
Detectives fear that she was stabbed before she collapsed onto a bed in an upstairs front room.
An accelerant was then used to start the fire given that the intensity of the blaze was not consistent with a normal house fire.
Ms Dunlea-O’Brien’s body was so badly damaged by the fire that gardai were initially unable to determine what type of clothing she had been wearing.
The separated mother of three was staying alone at No 26 Pembroke Crescent in the Cork harbour town while her three children spent the weekend with their father in Cork city.
Her three children, Aaron (12), Megan (10) and Daragh (9), were today being comforted by their father who was informed of the tragedy by Gardai.
Aaron is scheduled to make his Confirmation next month.
All three children are students at the Star of the Sea school in Passage West.
So great was the heat of the blaze in the semi-detached house that the upstairs front bedroom window was blown out onto the front lawn while several roof tiles were also shattered and dislodged.
The house next door was empty with its tenant having vacated the premises just last month.
Garda technical experts began a detailed forensic examination of the gutted house and State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy conducted a preliminary examination of the scene at 1pm.
The Dunlea family were too upset to comment on the tragedy.
Ms Dunlea-O’Brien worked as a volunteer with Passage West Youth Club and was a full-time mother.
“She was a lovely person, a very quiet woman but someone who absolutely devoted to her children. You’d often see them in the estate out for a walk or playing with their pets. It is just heartbreaking what happened,” another neighbour added.
Shocked neighbours, many accompanied by children who were in school with Ms Dunlea-O’Brien’s youngsters, arrived at the Garda cordon with flowers and wreaths.