DETECTIVES are hunting violent killers who tied up and viciously beat an elderly man before leaving him to die.
Eugene Gillespie (67) had his jaw broken in the attack while the blood supply to his hands and legs was cut off before he died.
It was up to two days before the gentle pensioner was found at his home in Sligo town.
Gardai believe the victim had opened the door to his killer or killers, before what they have described as "an aggravated burglary". The vintage car enthusiast died in hospital at the weekend after he had spent a significant amount of time bound and seriously injured in his home. It is believed Mr Gillespie -- who lived alone -- may have unsuspectingly allowed his attacker or attackers access to his house on Wednesday night.
Family and friends last night said they had no idea why the gentle, former switchboard operator would have been so viciously assaulted.
Mr Gillespie had never married and had lived alone since the death of his mother some years ago.
His brother, Brian Gillespie, a farmer in Calry, outside the town, yesterday told the Irish Independent that the whole family were "at a total loss" as to what happened.
"We are totally devastated," he said.
Eugene Gillespie's house on Old Market Street, Sligo, is just 60 metres away from a garda station, while the office of local TD John Perry is at the bottom of the road.
Neighbours on one of Sligo's oldest streets yesterday described the former Telecom Eireann worker as a trusting and caring man who would "always look at the positive".
The fluent Irish speaker was a vintage car enthusiast and headed the Connaught Veteran and Vintage Car Club.
He lived in a modestwo-storey terraced house attached to an old shop that his father had run as a pork butchers many years ago.
Mr Gillespie had himself used the premises to run a grocers shop but in recent years had just sold Christmas trees seasonally from there.
Publican Donal McLynn, whose bar is just a few doors away, knew him all his life and described him as "very quiet, very docile, a gentleman".
He said Mr Gillespie had spent his time between Old Market Street and Calry, where his brother and nephews worked the family farm.
He had no enemies and "no interest in money" but Mr McLynn said that it was possible that if anyone had knocked on the door, Mr Gillespie would have let them in. "He'd look at the positive side all the time," he said.
"There was no reason for anyone to do that to him," he said.
"I don't know who would do what they did to him."
He said the savage attack has left neighbours on the street extremely nervous.
"It was shocking, horrific and nobody expects it," he said.
A post-mortem was carried out last night by Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis.
A neighbour dropped Mr Gillespie's newspaper through his letterbox every day and two copies were found on the floor of his hallway when he was found at 9pm on Friday.
He was taken to Sligo General Hospital where he died late on Saturday night.
Neighbours said that they were stunned by the tragedy and that no one had heard the attack.
Flowers and a lighted candle were left by grieving friends near to his home, where garda tape closed off the crime scene yesterday.
Mr Gillespie is survived by his brother, Brian and two sisters, Patsy and Elizabeth, as well as nephews.
A woman who lives nearby but would not give her name described the dead man as a very "trusting and lovely old fellow".
"It's a terrible shock," she added.
Gardai have appealed for witnesses who saw anything suspicious to contact them in Sligo on 071 915 7000 or on the garda confidential telephone line 1800 666 111.