The murder of a father of six – one month after he was released from jail – may be part of a vicious Traveller feud.
The postmortem revealed that the victim had been shot a number of times in the chest and arm.
Officers have upgraded the investigation to murder and are looking into a possible link to sexual assault allegations that had been made against him.
The dead man was named last night as Christy Daly (47), who was well known to gardai and had completed a three-year sentence for false imprisonment.
Investigating gardai said it was too early to clearly establish a motive for the murder but confirmed that their main lines of inquiry involved the sex allegations, which did not result in a criminal prosecution, and the outbreak of violence involving members of the Traveller community in the region.
A number of women are understood to have made the assault claims against Mr Daly and a file was sent by gardai to the Director of Public Prosecutions. But the DPP ruled against a prosecution.
Mr Daly’s body was found sitting upright in a six-foot drain on a bog lane, near where he had been living in a caravan since his release from the Midlands jail in Portlaoise on December 7. Gardai became concerned about his safety after his caravan and two vehicles were found burnt out in an area known as the Bog Road, Kilbride, 4km outside Clara, Co Offaly, on Friday.
Mr Daly had not been seen in the area since Sunday week when he was known to have visited relatives in Navan, and gardai think he may have been murdered after he had returned home late that night or early the following morning.
After inquiries failed to determine his whereabouts, officers decided to carry out searches in the Clara area on Monday after the discovery of the arson attack, although he had not been reported to them as a missing person.
Gardai made the grim find in a drain on a laneway leading to bogland shortly after 8.30am yesterday and immediately sealed off the area, pending a forensic examination.
State pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy carried out a preliminary check on the body before it was removed by firefighters from the drain, where it had been lying, about a hundred metres from the roadway.
The body was then taken to the Midland regional hospital in Tullamore for a post-mortem.
Mr Daly, who formerly lived in Clara and neighbouring Ballycumber, is the father of six children, ranging in age from seven years to 23. He was one of a family of 11.
During a press conference outside Tullamore garda station, one of his daughters made a tearful plea to officers for information about her father.
Mr Daly was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, with three of them suspended, in November 2012 after he was convicted of false imprisonment.
The sentence was backdated to September 2011 when he was first remanded in custody at Cloverhill prison in west Dublin and later transferred to the Midlands jail.
Gardai have appealed to anybody who may have noticed suspicious or unusual activity at Bog Road, Kilbride, in the days leading up to Sunday, December 29, and particularly after that date, to contact them.
One officer said last night: “This is an isolated area with limited access. A number of people have come forward with valuable information and we are encouraging others to talk to us”.
Anybody with information can contact gardai at 057 9327600 or on the confidential line, at 1800 666111.
By Tom Brady and Emma Jane Hade