THE blue tarpaulin under the slope of conifer trees stood out like a beacon.
Hidden under it was a burnt-out car with the charred remains of two unknown people.
The usually tranquil scene - a car park with picnic benches at the edge of Ravensdale Park forest - was transformed into a violent crime scene overnight.
"The whole thing is burnt to a cinder," said one senior Garda.
"Maybe we'll know what happened for sure when we identify them or when somebody comes forward."
The walkers, joggers, trekkers and horse riders who normally traverse the picturesque woodland at the foothills of the Cooley Mountains were nowhere to be seen.
So secluded is the scene, on a locally used roadway running parallel to the M1, shocked residents in nearby farmyards were unaware of the grim discovery until morning.
"I can't believe it," said one local woman.
"I heard it on the radio. Then I drove past, it just catches your eye."
Cars and lorries roared by on the nearby motorway - where a late night motorist first spotted flames from what was called in as just an average car fire.
In daylight, drivers peered across a field and through yellow heather bushes and dark leafless trees to catch a glimpse of the tent in the distance.
The early morning mist that smothered the mountain tops had lifted, but the cold chill still hung in the air under the sombre grey sky.
The narrow roadway to the car park, often used by locals as a shortcut instead of the motorway, was cordoned off at both ends.
A neighbour who saw the blue sirens thought Gardai had caught fuel smugglers dumping sludge in the former heartland of Ireland's underground republican activity.
"I couldn't believe it when I got up," he added.
A dark cloud and eerie pall was cast over the valley nestled between the Anaverna and Feede hills, a natural beauty spot visited by an unspeakable tragedy.
But the hum of a helicopter broke the ghostly silence and hovered above, an officer hanging out and taking photographs from the sky of an area sparsely populated by detached gated homes.
Beneath it, a Garda sniffer dog and forensic officers rummaged through undergrowth and searched for clues.
The grim task of examining the scorched remains was left to deputy state pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar, who attended the scene as detectives tried to piece together how the pair came to their deaths.