Wednesday 17 October 2018

Gardaí believe Joanne Lee (38) was strangled by her killer

  • Post-mortem finds evidence of strangulation
  • Murder investigation opens into Joanne's death
  • Gardaí discover body during course of missing persons investigation
38-year-old Joanne Lee
38-year-old Joanne Lee

Ken Foy, Ryan Nugent and Conor Feehan

Gardaí believe Joanne Lee (38) - whose body was found in a wardrobe - was strangled by her killer.

On Friday gardaí officially upgraded the investigation into her death to a murder investigation.

Picture of Joanne Lee
Photo: Facebook
Picture of Joanne Lee Photo: Facebook

A post-mortem carried out on her remains today found evidence that she died by strangulation.

Ms Lee's body was found tightly bound in a sleeping bag and bedsheets in a house on Ranelagh Road in south Dublin at 3.45pm yesterday by gardaí investigating her disappearance.

Gardai investigating Ms Lee’s disappearance after she had been reported missing by her family went to the house yesterday after Ms Lee's car was spotted nearby.

At a press conference today, Supt Gerry Delmar from Donnybrook Garda station said that a man discovered with serious injuries at the rear of the house yesterday is believed to be Joanne's estranged husband.

Supt Gerry Delmar from Donnybrook Garda Station pictured outside the house on Ranelagh Road where the body of Jaonne Lee was discovered. Photo Credit: Frank Mc Grath
Supt Gerry Delmar from Donnybrook Garda Station pictured outside the house on Ranelagh Road where the body of Jaonne Lee was discovered. Photo Credit: Frank Mc Grath

"On February 13, Ms Joanne Ball, also known as Joanne Lee was reported missing to the gardaí in Store St. An immediate investigation was set up in the incident room in Mountjoy Garda station.

"As a result of that investigation, the gardaí  from Mountjoy called to this address at 92 Ranelagh Road yesterday afternoon.

"Inside gardaí found a female that was unresponsive. Medical assistance was given to that female but she was pronounced dead at the scene. We believe that female is Joanne Lee. However at this stage she has not been positively identified.

"Also at the rear of this premises, gardai found a male with injuries. The injuries were consistent with falling from a height. That male is currently in hospital receiving treatment for those injuries.

Supt Dulmar said the man's injuries are not life-threatening. "Gardai believe that this man is Joanne's estranged husband," he added.

It is thought that he jumped from a third-floor balcony of the flat after gardaí tried to get into the property.

Joanne Lee (Garda/PA)
Joanne Lee (Garda/PA)

He suffered a broken arm and leg injuries after the jump.

A garda at the scene when the forced entry was made removed his own shirt to stem the blood flow from the man's wounds after he jumped from an upstairs window.

He used his shirt to treat the man’s injuries until emergency crews from Dublin Fire Brigade reached the scene.

The suspect, who was being treated at St Vincent's Hospital last night, is understood to have told investigating officers last night that he "had to kill" Ms Lee.

Missing

Detectives are probing if Ms Lee was murdered at a different location, possibly on St Valentine's Day, and that her killer was planning to transport her body before gardaí found her in the wardrobe.

Her body was so tightly wrapped up in the sleeping bag and bedsheets that the exact cause of death will not be known until they are removed and a post-mortem examination is completed.

Ms Lee, who was originally from the Coolock area of the capital's northside, had been living with her family in Ashbourne, Co Meath, in recent times.

The tragic woman's family became extremely concerned for her welfare after they did not hear from her since Tuesday of this week.

They contacted gardaí, who in turn issued a public 'missing person's appeal' late on Wednesday night, stating that Ms Lee had last been seen in the area policed by Mountjoy gardaí on the capital's northside on Tuesday.

Her grief-stricken uncle John Curry told the Irish Independent last night that her death has "torn the soul" out of the whole family.

He spoke to reporters at the scene, saying that her family feared the worst when his 38-year-old niece went missing.

An emotional Mr Curry said: "She was a lovely girl, a beautiful girl, never any trouble, nothing from her, she was just...aw god, I'm so upset, I can't speak.

"I'm just devastated, the whole family is, just taken apart, just torn the soul out of us.

"I just don't know what came out of this at all, why it happened.

"A couple of days (she was missing), we had a feeling something was up, but we couldn't put it together and we were searching everywhere.

"All I can say is why, why, why take a beautiful girl, so young, so pretty, away from us all?

"I'm just devastated," he added.

Garda cordons closed off the building on Ranelagh Road last night, as residents in the building - which comprises a number of flats - were moved into a nearby hotel for accommodation.

State pathologist Marie Cassidy arrived at the scene at around 7.30pm yesterday.

A neighbour was visibly shaken, having found out the news.

The woman had been returning from the shop when the building was closed off.

She said she had spoken to the family of the victim and to gardaí during the missing person's search, but when shown a photograph had never seen Ms Lee before.

After the grim discovery of Ms Lee's body yesterday, gardaí made another appeal for information. They asked people to contact them at Donnybrook garda station on 01 666 9200 or any garda station.

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