'It's so macabre - nothing like this has happened here before'
The sleepy village of Ardclough in Co Kildare found itself at the heart of a grisly murder mystery over the weekend.
Nestled between Celbridge and Straffan, the pretty borough set on the banks of the Grand Canal is well known among walkers and anglers from all over the county.
Ordinarily, tourists and locals alike can be seen plodding the heritage trail from Hazelhatch to Oughterard Cemetery, where brewing legend Arthur Guinness and his wife Olivia are buried.
On Saturday afternoon, however, two walkers inadvertently stumbled upon another grave along 'Arthur's Way' after spotting a large suitcase in the water while they were out for a stroll.
The dark-coloured wheelie bag - which was described by officials as being just like any other - contained the dismembered torso of a man who has yet to be identified.
As national and local media descended on the village, hoping to learn more yesterday morning, there was a palpable sense of shock at the jarring sight of a blue forensics tent on the usually peaceful stretch of waterway.
Cycling past the bridge closest to the where the gruesome discovery was made on his way to the local shop, local man Thomas McLoughlin told how others had also seen the suitcase bobbing in the canal in recent days but thought nothing of it.
He said: "It has taken everybody by surprise, this whole thing. A lot of locals spotted this wheelie suitcase in the water, but didn't pay much attention to it."
As garda divers trawled the lock, which is overlooked by the illustrious Lyons Demesne, and uniformed gardaí went door to door in the area making enquiries, just before noon, a wooden coffin draped in a thin black sheet was driven away in the back of a hearse.
Speaking to the press assembled just beyond the crime scene tape, Superintendent Gerry Wall of Leixlip Garda Station appealed for anyone who had travelled the path between Thursday and Saturday to come forward.
Having ambled along the canal with her five-year-old son on Wednesday, Ardclough resident Teresa Farrell admitted it was "scary" to think someone could have dumped a body there just hours later.
She said: "The world is a sick place. I only had my son down here during the week.
"I just hope they get whoever did it; no one deserves to die like that."
Describing the mood in the community, cyclist Thomas McLoughlin added: "Utter shock - it's so macabre. Nothing like this has ever happened in Ardclough."