Gardai are now satisfied that popular publican and schoolteacher John Kenny was murdered during a robbery and may have known his killers.
Inquiries have established that a quantity of cash was taken from Mr Kenny's pub in Oughterard, Co Galway, after he was savagely attacked in the early hours of last Sunday morning.
Mr Kenny was given "a bad beating" by his attackers as he fought for his life after being surprised by the killers in a room at the rear of the pub.
Officers think the 56-year-old father may have known his attackers, who could have been in the premises earlier in the night. Initially, gardai were not certain if there had been a robbery as there was no sign of a forced entry to the pub and the premises had not been ransacked.
But as their inquiries were stepped up last night, officers established that money had been taken.
Mr Kenny's body was found on the floor of a locked room by his daughter, Gillian, who had become concerned about his whereabouts on Sunday and visited the pub in the late afternoon. His hands had been tied behind his back and a jacket draped across his head.
The extent of his injuries did not become fully evident until a post-mortem examination was carried out by State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy.
This established that Mr Kenny had died as a result of the multiple injuries he sustained in the assault. Gardai believe at least two people were involved in the attack and had concealed themselves on the premises when Mr Kenny was locking up the pub. He lived upstairs in the building.
Local gardai were joined by detectives from the national bureau of criminal investigation in Dublin as the inquiry was upgraded to murder.
Last night an appeal was issued to tourists, who might have been using camcorders in the town on Saturday night and could have captured people acting suspiciously on camera.
Gardai said that while there was no CCTV system in place at the pub, they were hopeful tourists could unwittingly have filmed something useful.
Detectives were also examining CCTV footage from other commercial premises as they followed up several lines of inquiry. Supt Noel Kelly said last night: "We need the assistance of the public. We are appealing to anybody who was in the vicinity of Kenny's bar or on the Main Street in Oughterard, anytime between 11.30pm and 4am on Sunday, to come forward if they noticed anything out of the ordinary.
"We are particularly interested if people noticed anyone with marks on them that would be consistent with being in a fight," he added.
Supt Kelly said the family were very upset. "I was with the family last night and we have a garda appointed as a family liaison officer to keep close contact with them and inform them of the progress with the investigation and give them any assistance we can."
An incident room has been set up at Oughterard garda station, tel 091 557320. Gardai said any information would be treated in strict confidence and members of the public could also contact them on the special hotline, 1800 666111.