Gardai believe mum-of-three Valerie French Kilroy (41) was beaten to death by a man known to her during a domestic incident at her rural Mayo home.
The Sunday Independent has learned this man confessed to killing the occupational therapist after being stopped by uniformed officers while running naked through a field adjacent to Valerie's home in Kilbree, Westport.
Sources yesterday described the man as being in a "highly agitated state" when officers detained him at 10am last Friday morning following a report from a member of the public.
"He was covered in cuts and bruises and was highly agitated," the source said.
A source also confirmed that when originally confronted by gardai, the man initially claimed that he had killed Valerie and her three children.
After securing the man, officers called to Valerie's rural farmhouse to check on her welfare and that of her children.
The children, twins aged two and another child aged five, were found in the house. They were unharmed but alone. A search was conducted of the property's outbuilding, a large shed, and then a search made behind the building.
Here gardai discovered Valerie Kilroy's badly beaten body behind a vehicle.
The arrested man was taken to Castlebar garda station for questioning.
Although neighbours in Kilbree said yesterday they had not known the family well, an interview Valerie gave to the Sunday Independent in 2009 painted a picture of a caring woman in her 30s who lived to help others.
In the magazine Your Health, Your Future, she wrote: "I work as an occupational therapist in the mental health community services covering north Mayo.
"Along with distressing symptoms, psychiatric illnesses can turn the lives of individuals and their families into disarray.
"My role is to work with people to enable them to return to doing everyday activities, so they can take control of their world and regain a meaningful life for themselves.
"My day is as varied as the needs of the people I work with.
"On arrival in Ballina, my first call is from Mary.
"Am I to meet the OT assistant at work today?
"I reassure her, thinking back to the time when Mary first came - she had little social contact, was afraid to wash herself and took half the day to do ordinary activities.
"She replies, 'OK, I've had my shower, I'll cycle up to the workshop'.
"My first community appointment is with a young man who has separated from his partner and whose children are the subject of a custody case.
"He had become depressed and turned to alcohol which, in turn, led to further problems whereby he had given up all interest in himself and couldn't trust himself to leave the house. Initially I worked with him on that latter issue and now I'm helping him get back into his old routines - taking care of himself and re-establishing his father role."
Valerie went on to discuss further case studies and other people she was helping, lives which through her work she was helping to mould for the better.
"Recovery is rarely a smooth process," she surmised, "and at times there are setbacks.
"However I believe that by truly listening to people and their families, recovery is a real option."
Although Valerie's caring nature and service to the public was not widely known in Kilbree, where only a handful of locals knew her, one man who spoke to both her and her husband James in recent weeks is local councillor John O'Malley.
"I remember canvassing the house a few weeks back, before the local elections," he recalled yesterday.
"They (Valerie and her husband James) were both there.
"It was about 8pm in the evening and they were putting the children to bed. They were very nice and pleasant."
A haunting image of Valerie Kilroy standing in her driveway, her two-year-old twins held by the hand on either side of her - brought tears to the eyes of a retired German neighbour yesterday.
"I saw her walking up the drive leading to her home at about 9.45am on Thursday - leading the children by the hand," he told the Sunday Independent.
"That house had been empty and on and off the market so long, I just thought isn't that nice, some young people moving into the area.
"Her long hair was blowing in the wind, that's what I remember and the way she was holding the children's hands, and now this, I don't know what to say."
The arrested man was last night in custody at Castlebar garda station.