GARDAI believe that skeletal remains found in foothills of the Dublin Mountains are those of a woman who had gone missing within the past two years.
Officers have narrowed down the list of missing women as they await the outcome of efforts to identify the remains.
They have been able to rule out women linked to Operation Trace, which has been focused on high-profile cases involving women who have went missing over the past two decades.
But gardai still fear that the woman may have been murdered.
No attempt had been made to bury the body and it decomposed where it had been dumped, close to Killakee Road.
"Further examination of the scene suggests that this wouldn't have been a place where someone would have been walking and could have been the victim of an accident.
"Nor is it likely that someone would have come here to take her own life," said a senior source.
He added that gardai were treating it "as a homicide" but added that "until we get a positive identification we cannot commence a murder inquiry".
Gardai have also narrowed down the number of possible victims, which included one missing woman who was described as "stocky" and who has been missing for two years.
They say it will take several days to determine a positive identification as they have to generate a DNA profile from the remains and then compare it with the profiles of missing women.
A senior officer said last night: "The two immediate priorities are to pinpoint the identity and then find out how the woman arrived at this spot, which is fairly inaccessible."
The remains were found a couple of hundred yards from the Killakee road in south county Dublin on Friday night by a woman walking her dog.
Initial examination of the part skeleton by forensic anthropologist Dr Lorraine Buckley and deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis indicated that the woman had died in the past two years.
As a result, inquiries are now focusing on women, who went missing since 2011, particularly in south county Dublin
Tests are also being carried out on two size seven runners and part of a size 16 tracksuit that were found nearby.
A finger-tip search of the area has led to the recovery of a jaw bone, a tibia, a fibula and part of a pelvic bone but gardai are hopeful of further finds as the undergrowth is likely to have become more dense since the woman died there.