Rosie (78) strangled after seeing 'panicked' burglar's face
Burglar mistakenly thought pensioner had left her home after carrying out surveillance on the frail widow's property
Gardaí believe the home of murdered pensioner Rosie Hanrahan (78) was under surveillance by thieves in the days before her death.
The primary theory now being examined by detectives under Limerick's Supt Derek Smart is that the thief or thieves mistakenly thought the pensioner had left her Thomondgate house when they broke in through a back window late on Thursday or early last Friday.
Ms Hanrahan was a regular shopper and also attended Mass at St Munchin's Church.
The frail woman, on hearing noises in her home, is thought to have surprised the intruder.
While gardaí have refused to comment on the cause of Ms Hanrahan's death for operational reasons, it is believed she was tied up and strangled.
Her body was discovered lying in the hallway by her shocked sister, Evelyn, who called with her husband, Jim Kenny, to the property on Friday afternoon.
The brutality of her killing has led gardaí to suspect that the panicked intruder was determined to protect their identity - and that they may have been ransacking the house without even wearing a mask.
Detectives are now trying to trace the movements of known burglars in the Limerick area over last Thursday and Friday.
A Garda source confirmed that forensics and CCTV footage is now expected to play a critical role in directing the investigation.
Hundreds of hours of CCTV footage is now being studied by gardaí.
Gardaí have also urged anyone with dash cameras fitted to cars or vans and who were in the Thomondgate area last week to contact them.
Garda Technical Bureau officers continued a painstaking examination of the property which backs onto the River Shannon.
Officers also examined an area of waste ground near an industrial park - amid speculation it may have been used to maintain surveillance on Ms Hanrahan's home.
Her late husband, Michael, was a fisherman who operated on the River Shannon.
One source said gardaí already had fingerprint and DNA data and were trying to determine whether it was connected in any way to the person responsible for Ms Hanrahan's murder.
Gardaí have been given until this evening by Limerick District Court to treat the house at New Road, Thomondgate, as a crime scene.
Funeral details for Ms Hanrahan are also expected to be confirmed today.
Parish priest Fr Donal McNamara is now liaising with elderly residents of Thomondgate who want to stage a prayer vigil in memory of Ms Hanrahan.
"She had tremendous faith and was always so appreciative and grateful for anything that was done for her," Fr McNamara said.
Limerick Mayor Councillor Sean Lynch, a former garda, was confident that detectives will identify the killer.
"With DNA profiling there is no way out for these people - they will eventually be caught," he said. "It probably wasn't their intention to do harm to this person.
"But there will now be behavioural changes in the person or persons responsible.
"I would appeal to anyone who has information to do the right thing and contact gardaí."
Cllr Lynch said he believed the tightknit, hard-working Thomondgate community may well hold the key to solving the murder investigation.
"People had to see something - anyone who has private CCTV cameras or dash cams should let gardaí know - that might help solve this for gardaí. The smallest little thing might just be what gardaí need."
Gardaí continued door-to-door inquires around Thomondgate.
Locals said the community was doing everything possible to assist the investigation while mourning the loss of a kind-hearted lady.
Local man Andrew O'Halloran said people couldn't believe such an horrific crime could occur in such a quiet area.
"She was a lovely, lovely lady. I used to meet her at Mass.
"I'm hoping and praying that the guards get whoever did this awful thing," he said.
Rose's sister, Helen, said everyone was still reeling from the killing. "She was so good to everybody," she said.
"You would wonder why? She has never done anything to anybody. It is very strange."
Rose had been scheduled to spend Christmas with Helen.