Tragic Brooklyn Colbert was seen smiling happily on the street with a man known to him a short time before gardaí swarmed the area and found his lifeless body in a house.
The community of Ballynanty in the shadows of Limerick's Thomond Park stadium was yesterday reeling with shock at the death of the 11-year-old schoolboy.
They described how Brooklyn, an only child to his mother Sonia Aylmer, was spotted with the local man going into the house the older man shared with his aunt on Sunday afternoon.
Neighbours told how both Brooklyn and the man seemed in good form, and nobody had any suspicions that anything so drastic and fatal would take place.
But after darkness fell it soon became apparent that something horrific had happened in the house.
Patrol cars and armed gardaí swarmed the small cul-de-sac off Shanabooley Road. Word then filtered through that Brooklyn had been found dead in the house.
Sources say gardaí are trying to piece together the sequence of events that led to Brooklyn's violent death, but early indications are the man who was seen with Brooklyn either walked into Henry Street garda station in Limerick or alerted them by phone.
Immediately concerned for Brooklyn's welfare, gardaí sped to the scene just over a kilometre from the station, where they found the boy's body in the kitchen.
The small cul-de-sac in Ballynanty remained sealed off yesterday morning as gardaí began a forensic examination inside the house. Colleagues carried out searches of local streets and State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster arrived at around noon.
Then, at around 1.30pm, a dark estate car with blacked out rear windows arrived, and Brooklyn's body was removed and placed into it on a covered stretcher.
A post-mortem examination was due to take place at University Hospital Limerick yesterday afternoon.
It is believed Brooklyn died from injuries consistent with a violent assault. The man, in his 20s, who was arrested by gardaí, remained in custody last night. He was described by locals as a quiet man who does not drink or smoke.
A second scene, a house in Moyross less than a kilometre away, was also sealed off by gardaí yesterday. It is believed it is the suspect's parental home.
Locals there described the man as quiet and introverted.
Brooklyn attended the nearby JFK Memorial primary school, where he was a fifth-class pupil.
In a short statement, the school principal said they were saddened by "the untimely death of our much-cherished pupil".
"We will work to support our pupils and staff in coming to terms with this loss over the coming days and weeks. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this very sad time," the statement added.
Brooklyn's father Wayne Colbert is known in Limerick as a talented League of Ireland football player.
The Colbert and Aylmer families were trying to come to terms with Brooklyn's death and were being comforted by family, friends and neighbours last night.
"It's shocking and devastating. The lad was so young," said local woman Sarah Griffin, whose home looks directly onto the crime scene.
"We didn't know anything until gardaí started to arrive," she added.
Another neighbour said the community is numbed and shocked by what happened.
"First there was a Garda car, then armed gardaí, and then the word came out that a young boy was dead. We just cannot believe it," she said.
Local councillor John Costello said the news was "the worst ever anyone could have".
"I am lost for words. Our thoughts are with the family. We are waiting for the State pathologist now and we are trying to get our heads around the fact that we've lost a young boy in our community. There is an air of hopelessness," he added.
Councillor Sharon Benson said the whole community is in absolute shock.
"It's very difficult and sad news to hear this morning. There is a strong sense of community here and they will pull together at this difficult time," she added.
Gardaí at Mayorstone Park in Limerick are investigating what they described as a fatal assault.
"Any person who was in the vicinity of Shanabooley Road, Ballynanty or in the Moyross area between 4pm and 7pm on Sunday and who saw anything suspicious, or any person who may have information is asked to contact the incident room at Mayorstone Park garda station," a spokesperson said.