Tight-knit Killarney community coming to terms with tragic death of pensioner

Gardaí continue their investigation into the death of Miriam Burns who was found dead in her home on Monday in 'unexplained circumstances'
Tight-knit Killarney community coming to terms with tragic death of pensioner

The body of Miriam Burns was discovered at her house in Killarney.

They stood with ashen faces, cupped hands over mouths, interspersed by gentle back rubs and hugs as gardaí walked around the estate with evidence-gathering folders - this close-knit community in Killarney is still coming to terms with a tragedy in their midst that is scarcely believable.

Ardshanavooly is an estate that has seen hundreds of families grow up over the decades, but the late Miriam Burns, who was found dead in her home on Monday in what gardaí subsequently described as unexplained circumstances, was a staple of the neighbourhood for almost 50 years.

She may have travelled to visit her now-grown family, with children in locations throughout the world, but she "could never stay away from Killarney for very long, because she loved it".

That is according to a neighbour and local councillor Donal Grady who knew Miriam from the first days of when she moved into Ardshanavooly in 1974.

Miriam was a lady, always smiling as she cycled past, which she loved to do. That smile is now quenched and the community is devastated.

"This is a tight-knit community who have been here for decades, it's as good an estate as you could get. It's one of those estates that has seen lots of families come and go, with new generations of families coming in and continuing the sense of community, starting the cycle again."

Miriam Burns was a constant in the community as it changed down through the decades, while keeping its core values of friendship, neighbourhood, and camaraderie, he said.

Gardai at the home of Miriam Burns in Ard Shanavooly Estate Killarney on Tuesday. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Gardai at the home of Miriam Burns in Ard Shanavooly Estate Killarney on Tuesday. Picture: Don MacMonagle

"Miriam was Killarney to the core, a friend to everyone. She was a carer, who cared about people not just in her professional capacity, but also those who weren't. That lovely smile was for everyone, and she will be sorely, sorely missed."

Ms Burns was found with unexplained injuries at Ardshanavooley, Killarney, at around 1.15pm on Monday.

She is survived by two sons and two daughters. It is understood she had not been seen since Friday evening.

Ms Burns was found in a room in her house in circumstances that raised concern and the scene was sealed off. 

A post-mortem examination took place on Tuesday after her remains were taken away in the morning.

Neighbours were reticent to speak to members of the media who had assembled, unaccustomed to such a presence in the most tragic of circumstances.

It is a picture-perfect snapshot of Irish suburban life, picturesque gardens and painted homes, with green spaces and children's toys and bicycles dotted throughout.

In the afternoon, two young boys kicked a Gaelic football around the green at the top of the estate, as a dog enthusiastically chased - an innocent snapshot of all that is good about Ardshanavooly, their young minds oblivious to the tragedy that had unfolded.

The shocked and pale faces of those who did speak were palpable. They kept it short, but with a consistent theme — Miriam Burns was one of their very best people, a glamorous woman whose youthful exuberance and ever-smiling face belied her 75 years.

'A lovely person'

Neighbour Paul O'Shea told assembled reporters that the area was hurting.

"It is terrible, really terrible. She was a lovely, lovely lady. She had a kind word for everyone she met," he said.

Fellow neighbour Ann Cronin described the feeling as "desperate".

"She really was a lovely person. She was very good to her family, her friends and her neighbours. Everyone feels desperate, to be honest," she said.

Gardaí were seen conducting their business around the home of Ms Burns, which is tucked away in a typical terraced fashion, like you would see in housing estates throughout the country.

Their serious faces as they went to various doors and homes was about the only indication to an outsider that something was amiss, such is the peace and tranquility of the various rows of homes.

Gardaí at the home of Miriam Burns in Ardshanavooly Estate, Killarney, Co Kerry, on Tuesday. Picture: Don MacMonagle
Gardaí at the home of Miriam Burns in Ardshanavooly Estate, Killarney, Co Kerry, on Tuesday. Picture: Don MacMonagle

The neighbours and Mr Grady spoke of how they would attempt to face the collective trauma of one of their own dying in tragic circumstances, how they would help each other through the shock and the grief - just like Miriam Burns would have done for them.

"Miriam was everyone's friend. She went above and beyond the call of duty for people, and was interested in everyone and everything in our town. Ardshanavooly is a wonderful place, and we will come together to heal, but Miriam will never be forgotten," Mr Grady said.

Fellow councillor Niall O’Callaghan described Ms Burns as "a fabulous lady". 

"She would talk to anyone and she would talk all day. It is very sad for the people of Ardshanavooley. It is very sad for the family,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

A man in his 50s has been arrested in connection with the murder and is being detained at Killarney Garda Station under the provisions of Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984.

Gardaí are appealing to any persons who were in the Ardshanavooley area of Killarney between 5pm on Friday, August 12, and 1pm on Monday, August 15, 2022, and observed any activity which drew their attention, to come forward.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Killarney Garda Station on 064 6671160, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any garda station.

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