Michaela was raped, beaten and strangled
A 12-YEAR-OLD schoolgirl whose body was found dumped in thick undergrowth beside a canal had been raped, beaten and strangled.
Gardai believe Michaela Davis, who had just started secondary school last Thursday, knew her killer.
A team of 80 officers spent yesterday combing the banks of the Royal Canal at Porterstown, near Blanchardstown in west Dublin, and carrying out house-to-house inquiries while members of the garda water unit searched the canal bottom.
A large area running from the canal to Michaela's family home at the Village in Porterstown was cordoned off.
Her bicycle was found a short distance away yesterday morning and that location was also sealed off for forensic examination.
Last night, gardai maintained a presence outside the family's semi-detached house in the leafy estate while the road remained closed off to all except residents.
A 19-year-old man was being questioned by gardai last night on suspicion of being involved in a serious assault after presenting himself at Blanchardstown station on Saturday evening. He was accompanied by his father.
It is believed that the schoolgirl, who had her first day at Luttrellstown Community College on Thursday, had been hanging around with older teenagers and young adults in recent times and may have been vulnerable.
She spent Friday with friends and returned home to her family. At around midnight, she told her parents she was going out for a while on her bicycle and would be back shortly. Investigating gardai believe Michaela had arranged to meet a particular individual.
When she failed to return home, her parents raised the alarm shortly after 2am.
Gardai immediately began a search for the child and the garda helicopter was drafted in to search from the air.
However, her partially clothed body was not discovered until more than 12 hours later by an elderly man out walking along the canal bank just before 4pm.
The body was found dumped in thick undergrowth in a heavily wooded area between the canal and an adjoining railway line and surrounded by waste ground. The location is less than a mile from her family home.
State Pathologist Marie Cassidy visited the scene and the body was removed to James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown where a post-mortem began at 11am yesterday.
It is understood that the girl was raped, beaten and strangled before her body was dumped at the scene. Gardai believe her body may have been moved a short distance after she was killed before being dumped in the undergrowth.
Locals yesterday said the canal path was a no-go area after dark.
Michaela's bike was found between her home and the location where her body was dumped.
Family members and friends were yesterday rallying to support Michaela's parents, Brendan and Deirdre, and her brother Brendan (16). They are said to be "devastated" by the horrific death of the schoolgirl.
Gardai moved to reassure the community in Porterstown that their investigation is progressing well. However, they appealed for anyone with information on Michaela's last movements to come forward.
Superintendent John Gilligan said: "We have a person in custody but we have not pieced together fully what took place and why this happened.
"There will be a sense of fear, a sense of tension; but from the point of view of the gardai, the community can be assured everything is being done and we're moving well with the investigation," he added.
He said up to 80 gardai were involved in the investigation and that an incident room had been set up.
"What we want is that anybody with any information, background information, information about what took place Friday night, Saturday, any time in the area of Porterstown bridge, the canal, come forward. People were perhaps out walking late, driving by late," he said.
Late yesterday evening, gardai continued their forensic examination, with additional staff drafted in to help comb through the dense undergrowth where her body was found.
Last night, neighbours declined to comment but said their sympathies were with the family. Her young friends set up a Facebook tribute page.
One friend, Triona Priestly, said: "The last conversation I had with her was the day after our confirmation. It never crossed my mind that that was the last conversation that I would EVER have with Michaela. May her soul rest peacefully. Goodbye Michaela, you'll never be forgotten."
Anyone with information is asked to contact Blanchardstown gardai on 01-6667032, call the Garda Confidential Telephone Line on 1800 666111 or make contact with any member of the gardai.