A 19-year-old man was being questioned by gardaí last night in connection with the killing of a woman in her 50s in North Kerry.
The body of Susan Dunne was discovered by neighbours in her home at around 9am yesterday. The man was arrested soon afterwards in Listowel, Co Kerry, and brought to the local Garda station, where he was being held last night.
It is understood her body was found in bed in her single-storey home at Ballynagearagh, about 2km from the village of Lixnaw and 12km from Listowel.
She had severe head injuries, believed to have been inflicted with a hatchet.
The late Ms Dunne moved from England to the area two years ago and lived with her son, Patrick, to whom she was very close and totally devoted, according to neighbours.
Patrick Dunne: Mother was slain in North Kerry
Gardaí are officially treating the death as suspicious, but it is expected to be upgraded to a murder investigation following an autopsy to be carried out by assistant state pathologist Margot Bolster at Kerry General Hospital, Tralee, today.
Lixnaw parish priest Fr Mossie Brick said Ms Dunne was Patrick’s soulmate, minder, and carer, which added to the pathos of the situation.
“This is a tight-knit, rural community where people look out for each other, particularly for neighbours,” he said.
“What has happened has numbed the neighbours. They are sticking together, talking about what has happened and trying to support one another.”
Fr Brick said the people who were important to Ms Dunne were her immediate neighbours, who helped her out in the house.
He was called to the house by gardaí at 1.30pm yesterday and administered the Last Rites.
Neighbours became suspicious when Ms Dunne’s car was driven away from her home early yesterday morning, which was unusual. They also became concerned when there was no activity around the house or any noise coming from it.
After gaining entry into the house, they found Ms Dunne lying in bed in her bedroom with extensive head injuries.
Gardaí were called and were quickly on the scene. The house was sealed off and examined by forensic experts. A boreen leading to the house was also cordoned off.
Later in the morning, a man was arrested in Listowel and taken to the local Garda station, where he was still being held last night.
Dr Bolster arrived at the scene after 5pm, accompanied by Supt William Leahy, Listowel.
Ms Dunne, who was not known to many people in the area, was the chairwoman of the Kerry branch of Autism Ireland.
At Mass in Lixnaw last night, Fr Brick prayed for the Dunne family and said the people of the area would support each other.
“Events happen that we just don’t have readymade answers for and obviously prayer is important,” he said. “We sometimes wonder why things happen. We are fallible and we depend on a higher power to help us out in situations and this is one of them.’’
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