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Mother-of-four Miriam Burns (75) was beaten and strangled in her home in Killarney last August
A prosecution against the suspected killer of a Kerry grandmother now hinges on forensic and circumstantial evidence.
Mother-of-four Miriam Burns (75) was beaten and strangled in her home in Killarney last August.
A garda source indicated the case is focusing on forensic evidence that places the suspected killer near the scene of the murder in the days before Ms Burns’ body was discovered.
Testimony also puts the individual in the vicinity of the widow’s home in the days leading up to the fatal assault.
However, there is no witness to the fatal attack and no statement of admission.
Fingerprint, DNA, fibre analysis and CCTV security camera footage will be critical to the garda case and the consideration of the case file by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Ms Burns was found dead in the sitting room of her home on August 15.
There was no sign of a break-in at the property in the mature Ardshanavooly estate, an area popular with older families and retired people.
It is feared Ms Burns unwittingly opened the door of her home to her killer.
The chief suspect is believed by gardaí to have been pestering her for cash in the days and weeks before her death.
Ms Burns, who was known as “Killarney’s smiling lady”, was renowned for her kindness and generosity, and it is believed her killer may have exploited that.
Gardaí are still trying to determine how much cash she may have kept at home and whether any was taken by her killer.
Detectives also fear the killer may have entered and left the property several times while her body lay in the front room.
Ms Burns was discovered lying on her side with traces of blood around her face and mouth. She had apparently tried to defend herself, with signs of a brief struggle in the room.
She was discovered at lunchtime when a relative who lives overseas became concerned at not being able to contact her over the weekend of August 13 and 14.
The man rang a neighbour, who went with another to check on her, and they were shocked to see Ms Burns’ body in the front room. They immediately called gardaí.
The property was sealed off and Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster conducted a post-mortem examination at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee.
Just over an hour after the post-mortem concluded, gardaí confirmed the death was being treated as murder.
Minutes later, a man in his 50s was arrested in south Kerry area on suspicion of murder and taken to Killarney garda station for questioning.
He was detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984 which gave gardaí up to 24 hours for questioning.
The man is said to have had a “very chaotic lifestyle” and was known to Ms Burns.
However, he denied any involvement in her death and protested his innocence.
The man, accompanied by his solicitor, Pádraig O’Connell, was taken by gardaí to two locations in Killarney.
The areas – the Wishing Well and a patch of ground near Ross Castle – were searched by garda technical officers, and clothing and other material recovered was taken for forensic testing. The man was subsequently released without charge.
Gardaí conducted door-to-door inquiries across Ardshanavooly and neighbouring areas to determine if anyone had seen or heard anything suspicious over the weekend of August 13 and 14.
Since then, detectives have examined hundreds of hours of CCTV footage from homes and business premises in the area, with the focus on movements in and out of the estate between August 12 and 15.
One theory being examined is that Ms Burns could have been killed two days before her body was found.
The last reported sighting of her alive was on the afternoon of August 12.