The charred remains were discovered by gardaí searching for Dolores McCrea, who has been missing since Tuesday evening after saying goodbye to her children and telling them she was going to a darts match in Donegal town.
State Pathologist Marie Cassidy yesterday confirmed the remains were human but the garda heading the investigation said it was too early for a positive identification.
Chief Superintendent Noel White said a murder investigation has not yet been launched and no arrests have been made, either in relation to the disappearance of the 35-year-old mother of four or the discovery of the remains.
It may take two days before the remains are positively identified. The body was badly charred as an intense fire had burned close to where it was found.
Ms McCrea’s four children, Sharon, 18, Laura, 14, Tanya, six, and four-year-old Leona were last night being comforted by family and friends.
The area close to where the body was found remained sealed-off last night while gardaí carried out house to house inquiries. The gardaí are appealing for information about Ms McCrea. She was last seen stepping in to a “silverish” car, possibly a Golf, near her home.
Detectives are also keen to find out whether anybody saw Ms McCrea’s car, a 97 Donegal-registered red Peugeot, from the time of her disappearance.
Ms McCrea was last seen between 7.30pm and 8pm on Tuesday at Ballybulgan in Ballintra, her home village just off the main Donegal to Ballyshannon road.
When she failed to turn up for work on Wednesday, the alarm was raised. Detectives were assigned to investigate her disappearance and search teams, with air support, were mobilised.
By Thursday afternoon, investigators had narrowed their search for the missing woman to a farm in Ballintra. A warrant was granted by the Circuit Court in Letterkenny and teams of gardaí moved in to search a house, outhouses, sheds and land.
The remains were discovered behind a shed on Thursday evening. Dr Cassidy travelled to Donegal that evening but due to failing light she could only carry out a preliminary examination.
The area around the shed was sealed off overnight and Dr Cassidy returned shortly before 1pm yesterday. At a 4.30pm press conference, Chief Supt White was able to confirm the remains were human.
A garda forensic team spent much of yesterday carrying out an examination of the scene.
Following the discovery of the remains, the family did not want to give interviews. But on Thursday morning, the eldest daughter, Sharon, told local radio: “Mum headed off to play darts and never came home. We have no idea where she is and want her back. We miss her terribly and we love her.”
Anyone with information about the movements of Ms McCrea is asked to contact the gardaí at Ballyshannon on 071-9851102 or the confidential line.