'How could anyone kill children in their beds?'
THEY didn't stand out. Sarah Hines, her baby girl and young son had just moved into the small estate in Newcastle West two months ago.
Their home suited them perfectly -- a two-storey semi-detached house in a quiet residential area.
Last night, homeowners in the Hazelgrove estate near the main Limerick road were horrified at the multiple murders of their new neighbours.
While they hadn't got to know the mother and her young children very well, the family were regularly spotted walking around the area and were said to be friendly to all.
Sarah (25), her son Reece (3) and daughter Amy (five months) were settling in well into their new rented home at No 18.
Before moving to the west Limerick town, Sarah lived in the rural townland of Knocknidha just outside the village of Tournafulla -- a 25-minute drive from Newcastle West.
Alicia Brough (20), originally from Rockchapel, Co Cork, was murdered alongside Sarah. She was due to celebrate her 21st birthday next week.
Last night, Chief Supt David Sheahan described the murders as "unreal". Not a soul in the mid-west region was in disagreement.
Hazelgrove was one of the first estates constructed in Newcastle West more than 50 years ago. It seems the perfect place for any young family to live. The vast majority of homes are occupied by their owners with less than a handful rented.
Behind the garda tape and sealed-off entrances to the house, Sarah and Alicia's bodies lay downstairs. In a bedroom upstairs, a young boy and his baby sister were lifeless.
Children and their mothers gathered at the scene yesterday as news quickly spread throughout the town of the murders.
"How can you do this to a child? Defenceless little children killed in their bed and cot," one mother said.
The wet and cold weather which swept across west Limerick throughout yesterday reflected the mood of the entire community. All talk of last night's eagerly anticipated Munster-Australia rugby clash in Thomond Park was completely forgotten about.
Newcastle West curate Fr Richard Keane described the deaths as a terrible tragedy.
"We are totally shocked, stunned and sickened. Two young children and two women have been brutally murdered."
Fr Keane had been attending a funeral in the parish and was informed of the murders upon leaving the graveyard.
Prayers were offered throughout Limerick last night for the victims.
Local man Richard Collins said his parents had been living in the Hazelgrove estate for the past 32 years.
"I'm just living down the road with my wife now, but I was living here for 29 years. Nothing like this has ever happened here before. It's a very quiet area," Mr Collins said.
"It's just shocking, this is the type of estate where nothing happens. I lived here with my parents -- nothing happens at all. People are in shock," he continued.
"I just came off the night shift when I found out and it's not something you think you are going to wake up to at all, murder on your own doorstep," Mr Collins said.
Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins said the local community was "absolutely numbed by the news of this multiple tragedy and the scale of it".
"It is hard to comprehend. People are just finding it hard to comprehend the brutality behind it all. Two young women and two young infants who were defenceless -- what can you say?" Mr Collins said.