A MAN was savagely beaten before being set on fire in Dublin's Phoenix Park.
Detectives who have launched a murder probe are also desperately trying to identify the victim.
He was burnt beyond recognition in the attack that has shocked hardened investigators.
It is suspected that the killer may have tried to cover up the murder by portraying it as an accidental fire death of a homeless person.
Gda Supt Dave Taylor said: "Unfortunately due to the extensive nature of the fire visual identification is not possible.
"It could be your friend, it could be your neighbour who you haven't seen in the last 24 hours and we're asking you to come forward and help us."
A postmortem confirmed that the man suffered a series of blows to the head.
After a sustained attack the victim may have been placed in a sleeping bag which was set on fire in order to make it appear he was homeless.
Inquiries are also being carried out to establish if he was assaulted at the scene or had been attacked elsewhere and his body then dumped underneath the trees at Wellington Road in the park.
It is not known whether he died before being set ablaze.
Last night, gardai appealed for help in identifying the victim. Officers said they will probably have to depend on DNA or dental records to establish the identity.
A garda patrol spotted a small fire near the Wellington monument in the Phoenix Park at around 1am yesterday and discovered the man lying in a sleeping bag, which was ablaze.
Dublin fire brigade personnel quenched the fire quickly but were unable to save his life.
A small paraffin heater was discovered nearby and was taken away for forensic examination by specialists from the Garda Technical Bureau at the Phoenix Park. The area was sealed off and a tent erected over the body, pending the arrival of State pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy.
An initial examination found a number of marks on the man's body but it was thought that he had died as a result of injuries sustained in the blaze.
However, Professor Cassidy established that he had been subjected to a vicious attack before the fire and senior officers immediately launched a murder inquiry. Supt Dave Taylor said that the man's age and nationality were not yet known because of the intensity of the fire and he appealed to any member of the public.
Gardai are anxious to hear for anyone who was in the vicinity of Wellington Road between 12.30am and 1am yesterday.
Officers said the victim appeared to be well kept and did not look like he might have been homeless or had lived a hard life.
Gardai urged anyone with information about the incident to contact Cabra station on 01 666 7400 or else the confidential phone line on 1800 666111.