Europol now hunting chief suspect in murder of Rosie (78) amid fears he fled to France
Interpol and Europol are now helping gardaí to find the chief suspect in the brutal murder of widow Rosie Hanrahan (78), amid fears that he is now in hiding in either France or Italy.
The man, an Eastern European national, has been linked to Ms Hanrahan's Thomondgate home in Co Limerick by forensic tests.
Gardaí are now working with their European colleagues in a bid to track him down as Limerick today marks one month since the shocking killing.
Detectives believe that the prime suspect fled Ireland within 24 hours of the December 15 murder, which occurred after a burglary went tragically wrong.
Ms Hanrahan was found by shocked relatives after she had been tied up and then strangled.
Her home had been ransacked.
The suspect is understood to have taken a ferry to France the following morning, Saturday, December 16.
The man, who has convictions for sexual offences in Eastern Europe, subsequently vanished.
However, Interpol and Europol are now helping gardaí to liaise with police forces in countries where it is believed the suspect may have fled.
He has links to both Romania and Albania, but detectives suspect that he has not gone there for fear of being recognised.
Instead, the prime theory being considered by detectives is that the man is hoping to "stay lost" in a large French or Italian city, possibly under an assumed identity.
He may also be using links to ex-pat gangs in those countries for support as he attempts to avoid police detection.
Gardaí firstly want to confirm the man's location and then obtain, via European police colleagues, a DNA sample, which will be cross-referenced with forensic samples obtained from Ms Hanrahan's home.
Key forensic data obtained at the murder scene does not match any samples on the existing DNA data base in Ireland.
However, the suspect is not on the Irish database, having never been convicted of a major crime here.
Limerick gardaí, under Supt Derek Smart, have been overwhelmed with help from the Limerick public, who were horrified by the brutality of the killing.
Even Limerick criminals have helped gardaí in their attempts to find out who was responsible for the murder.
The killer failed to find a significant sum of cash, which Ms Hanrahan had in her house for the Christmas period.
She had hidden the cash, understood to be a four-figure sum, in a secret storage area in her kitchen/utility room.
It is suspected that the widow may have been under surveillance or that the burglar somehow got information that she had cash in the house.
CCTV footage indicates that Ms Hanrahan may have been stalked and then followed to her home, with the burglar hoping to get her ATM card.
Gardaí believe that the killer displayed all the hallmarks of someone who had broken into homes before.
There was a spate of break-ins at properties across Limerick city and county over recent weeks.
Some bear uncanny similarities to how the killer gained access to Ms Hanrahan's home - through a smashed back window or door while the property was thought to be empty.
Limerick Mayor Seán Lynch, a former garda, said he is convinced that the killer will be caught.
"With DNA profiling, there is no way out for these people, they will eventually be caught," he said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact investigating gardaí at Mayorstone garda station on (061) 456 980 or (1800) 666111.