Gardaí investigating the discovery of skeletal human remains alongside a disused railway line in East Cork are set to continue searches of the area across the weekend while they await test results to confirm suspicions that the remains may be those of a woman.
It is understood that investigators believe that the skull found near Midleton on Tuesday is that of an adult female, but results for DNA tests to confirm that suspicion could take a week.
Further tests to pinpoint a possible age of the skull are ongoing, but it is understood that gardaí now believe the remains to be “forensically significant” and not historic, as was initially thought.
It is still not clear whether a cause of death has been, or can be, determined, or whether foul play may have been involved in the person's death.
It is understood that there were no signs of trauma or physical injury on the skull.
And it will be some time before it can be established how long the remains may have been in the ground before their discovery on the route of the disused Cork to Youghal railway line near Midleton on Tuesday afternoon.
A range of forensic, DNA, and radiocarbon dating tests are now being considered on the remains as all those involved in the case seek to unravel the mystery.
The skull was found by workmen clearing undergrowth on a section of the line, about three kilometres east of Midleton, for its development as a €19.8m greenway to Youghal.
Gardaí immediately sealed off the scene and began a forensic and technical examination of the area. The search is ongoing.
They confirmed, as was reported by theyesterday, that they have recovered a number of other human bones from the site over the last three days.
They have declined to comment on the nature of the latest finds, whether the skull found on Tuesday is associated with the bones found over the following days, the context in which the remains were found, or on reports that shreds of disintegrated clothing or material, as well as small items of jewellery and other small personal items, were all found in association with the remains.
Gardaí remain tightlipped on the specifics and details of the discoveries, given that their investigation could go in a certain direction, pending the outcome of further forensic tests.
But confirmation that the skull is that of a female will focus Garda enquiries.
The latest developments arise out of a series of forensic tests which were conducted on the remains at Cork University Hospital yesterday following an examination by assistant state pathologist Dr Margot Bolster and forensic anthropologist Laureen Buckley.
They examined the remains in situ following the discovery on Tuesday, and again at CUH.
Gardaí are expected to compile a list of missing persons in the event that the results of further analysis of the bones yields more specific information, narrows the timeframe of the person’s age, or length of time the remains were in the ground.
Among the more high-profile missing person cases from the area in recent years is that of Tina Satchwell, who was last seen at her home in Youghal on March 20, 2017.
Despite an extensive Garda investigation, and several media appeals for her to contact home, she has not been seen since.
The greenway, which will ultimately connect Midleton, Mogeely, Killeagh, and Youghal, is expected to be open in late 2022.