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Gardai renew witness appeal in hunt for prostitute's killer

GARDAI are today launching a new appeal for the public's help as they bid for a breakthrough in their 10-year investigation to find the killer of a young Sri Lankan prostitute.

Diminutive and beautiful Belinda Pereira had only arrived in Dublin from London a few days prior to being found murdered in a city centre apartment complex.

The 26-year-old had been living in an apartment at Mellors Court in Liffey Street just yards from O'Connell Street.

On December 29 1996 she was found dead, lying in a pool of blood in te apartment with severe head injuries following an attack with a blunt instrument.

She had arrived in the city on Christmas Eve and had been planning to return to Britain on New Year's Day.

But despite an extensive investigation, hundreds of people interviewed and more than 350 statements taken, in addition to a large number of finger prints and blood samples, her killer has never been found.

It is believed the young woman, unknown to her parents, had begun working as a prostitute in the Wimbledon area of London and had come to Dublin after contacting a mobile phone number carried in an advertisement in 'In Dublin' magazine.

At that time in the mid-1990s there were a large number of massage parlours operating in Dublin, many from privately rented apartments with the contact numbers listed in the back pages of the magazine.

There were no traces of drugs found in her body and it is understood her parents believed she had a well paid office job.

The investigation into her murder revealed it was likely she either knew her killer or did not suspect any attack at the time.

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There was no sign of forced entry at her apartment and no injuries on her body to suggest a struggle.

Despite extensive searches in the apartment complex and neighbouring streets as well as the River Liffey, no murder weapon has yet been found although the ferocity of the blows to her head suggest a lump hammer or other blunt instrument was used.

Store Street gardai have interviewed a large number of people working in Ireland's sex trade at the time as well as a number of known clients.

Like other young women who travelled from Britain to Dublin at that time she could have expected to earn about ?190 per hour. The Dublin of a decade ago was very different to the multi-cultural melting pot of today and a woman with exotic foreign looks would have been working at the higher end of the prostitution market .

But Ms Pereira was also working in a world where women were vulnerable and because she operated from a private flat would have had no means of protection.

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