Hunt for suspect in murder of pensioner Rosie Hanrahan extended across Eastern Europe
Gardaí have extended their search across eight European countries for a convicted sex offender who is a key suspect in the brutal murder of pensioner Rosie Hanrahan.
Interpol and Europol are helping detectives to trace an Eastern European national who was living in Limerick but vanished from the city within 48 hours of the murder of the 78-year-old widow during a suspected bungled burglary on December 15.
The man, who has convictions for sex offences in his native country, left Ireland by ferry and arrived in a French port on December 17 or 18.
His whereabouts since are unknown.
Gardaí had asked European police forces to focus on countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands in a bid to trace the man.
It was suspected he was hiding under a false identity and using major European cities for cover.
It was also believed he may be receiving support from friends, family or former criminal colleagues.
However, Interpol and Europol are now extending their trawl for the man beyond the major European countries.
The man is understood to have strong connections to Romania and Albania as well as Hungary.
It was initially suspected he would avoid these countries given that he is well known there.
However, local police are now being asked to check for the man's location in a variety of places where he has lived previously.
Gardaí are convinced the man must be receiving support from former associates - and hope that by their European colleagues tracing known associates, the individual's whereabouts can be uncovered.
The man has been linked to the Thomondgate crime scene by forensic tests.
Gardaí obtained a significant amount of forensic data from a painstaking analysis of the Thomondgate cottage by Garda Technical Bureau staff.
Several thousand hours of CCTV security camera footage has also been studied while gardaí have spoken to 1,900 people as part of their investigation.
In a unique development, members of Limerick's criminal underworld have also been helping gardaí with information such is the revulsion at the brutal murder of the helpless widow.
Ms Hanrahan was found by relatives after she had been tied up and then strangled.
Her home had also been ransacked.
Gardaí firstly want to confirm the suspect's location and then obtain, via European police colleagues, a DNA sample which will be used to cross-reference with forensic samples obtained from Ms Hanrahan's home.
The widow had cash in her house for the Christmas period. She had what is understood to be a four-figure sum in a secret storage area in her kitchen/utility room.
Detectives are also considering the theory that the killer may have targeted the widow's handbag for her ATM cards.
Limerick mayor Councillor Sean Lynch, a former garda, said he remains convinced 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 Mayorstone gardaí on (061) 456980 or (1800) 666111.