Saturday 18 November 2017

Website searched in murder hunt

The site where a key fob belonging to Elaine O'Hara was found in the Vartry reservoir near Roundwood, Co Wicklow
The site where a key fob belonging to Elaine O'Hara was found in the Vartry reservoir near Roundwood, Co Wicklow

Detectives are trawling through an online dating website in a hunt for a suspected sex murderer.

Users of the site can expect a knock on their door as Garda officers try to catch Elaine O'Hara's killer, investigators have said.

The remains of the 37-year-old were discovered in undergrowth in a forest in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains last Friday.

Handcuffs and restraints were recovered from the Vartry reservoir near Roundwood, Co Wicklow, after a key fob for Ms O'Hara's work was found at the same spot.

A source close to the murder investigation said she had been using a website in the months leading up to her disappearance, and forensic experts poring over internet records will contact anyone she came into contact with on the service.

One site, which has not been named but is being looked at, is popular with people seeking to explore their sexual fantasies.

Ms O'Hara's phone records are also being examined.

Gardai described the childcare assistant as a trusted person and a popular employee at a newsagents in Blackrock shopping centre where she worked part-time. She had been due to volunteer at the Tall Ships Festival in Dublin before she went missing.

Her skeletal remains were uncovered by a dog in the Killakee area near Rathfarnham and several other locations have been searched.

A Garda source said: "This is going to be old fashioned police work, knocking on doors."

Ms O'Hara disappeared on Wednesday August 22 last year.

In a renewed appeal gardai said she was last seen wearing navy tracksuit bottoms, white runners and a bright blue zip-up top.

Officers want to speak to anyone who may have met, spoken to or engaged with Ms O'Hara between the last time she was seen and two days later when she was officially recorded as missing.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan urged internet users to take extra care when communicating or making arrangements to meet someone online.

"It is important that people are careful about who they communicate with and the advice I would give would be the advice any police officer would give - that is, to know who you are dealing with, know the circumstances surrounding the business you are dealing with and just to exercise reasonable caution and care as in every other facet of life," he said.

Ms O'Hara, who has been described as vulnerable, had been treated in hospital for depression for a period. It is understood she found it difficult to cope with her mother's death.

A number of locations are being examined as part of the investigation into her death.

Gardai are trying to establish if someone dumped her belongings in the reservoir and how long they have been there.

The initial discovery was made in apparent coincidence at the drying-out reservoir two days before Ms O'Hara's remains were found in a forest on Killakee mountain near Rathfarnham.

Further searches, including by Garda divers, have taken place at the site near Roundwood.

The location of Ms O'Hara's abandoned car, a turquoise Fiat Punto with 05-D registration, is also key to the inquiry as it was left at Shanganagh cemetery, Shankill and located by gardai two days after she went missing. It was thought she might have been there visiting her mother's grave.

She was seen leaving Belarmine Plaza, Stepaside , where she lived, at approximately 5.05pm on August 22 2012.

A second sighting of her was reported at a footbridge over a railway line at Shanganagh Park, Shankill, Co Dublin one hour and ten minuntes later.

Her skeletal remains, including jaw bone and teeth and leg bones, were found in the forest last Friday and underwent DNA and forensic analysis over the weekend.

Ms O'Hara's family were contacted about the discovery of a body before her identity had been confirmed and they were then notified of her death.

The locations of Ms O'Hara's remains, her last known movements, the discovery of her car and the finding of some of her belongings covers more than 100km sq between the Dublin and Wicklow mountains and the coast.

Garda commissioner Martin Callinan cautioned against linking Ms O'Hara's disappearance with any other historic cases investigated under Operation Trace.

"Our priority is of course to find the remainder of those remains and indeed to bring the investigation to a conclusion," he said.

The commissioner said a lot of scenes were being searched and he hoped anyone with information would come forward.

"It is the case that in this particular area it brings back all the entities involved in Operation Trace," he said.

"For the moment it's far to early to speculate on the precise nature of how Elaine met her demise and I would caution against speculation.

"We will do our utmost to get to the bottom of this matter and I have no doubt we will in time with the public's assistance."

The commissioner said detectives were keeping an open mind on the possibility of links to other disappearances as part of Operation Trace and the search for women missing in the Leinster area since the 1990s.

Press Association

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News