Kerry murder | 

Demand for cash ‘may have triggered’ killing of ‘smiling lady’ Miriam Burns at Kerry home

It is known that the chief suspect was regularly in contact with Ms Burns and would often seek help from her, including cash handouts

Miriam Burns was found dead at her home in Killarney

Garda believe mother and grandmother Miriam Burns knew her attacker

It emerged on Friday that investigators have obtained CCTV footage of a man they believe is the chief suspect in the killing of Miriam Burns

Ralph RiegelSunday Independent

A few short weeks ago Miriam Burns was getting ready to watch Kerry win the All-Ireland football final.

A pink rose bush was in full bloom in her front garden. Kerry flags and bunting decorated a shrubbery by her sitting room window.

On the Saturday before the match, she told her followers on Facebook she had an unexpected visitor to the breakfast table. She shared a picture of a robin perched high on the back of a kitchen chair.

This was Miriam Burns as everyone knew her.

A happy lady who would breeze by on her bicycle, waving or smiling at anyone she knew or those who offered a salute.

Garda believe mother and grandmother Miriam Burns knew her attacker

By that Sunday she was cheering “Ciarraí Abú” as Ms Burns, like the rest of the community in Ardshanavooly, got ready for the match.

Ardshan, as it is known locally, is something of a Kerry football sanctuary. Every year many of the houses are draped in the green and gold in the build-up to Munster Finals and All-Ireland fixtures as children run and play in the county colours.

The green in Ardshan is a something of a local landmark because you have to pass it to enter the estate and it can be seen from the main road into town.

The green was where a young Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper would sit as a child and play with the goochie dolls he inherited the name from.

The green is also a corner of Killarney where children sometimes visited from neighbouring estates down through the years to hone their football skills against each other.

Last week, there was a less innocent air beyond this green and in the second row of houses where Miriam Burns lived.

She was found dead there on Monday.

Gardaí are now investigating the possibility the much-liked grandmother unwittingly let her killer into her home before she was attacked.

They are also examining if a demand for cash may have triggered the violent assault that resulted in the mother of four being beaten and then strangled.

It emerged on Friday that investigators have also obtained CCTV footage of a man they believe is the chief suspect in the murder near the victim’s home the weekend before her body was discovered.

It emerged on Friday that investigators have obtained CCTV footage of a man they believe is the chief suspect in the killing of Miriam Burns

It is known that this man was regularly in contact with Ms Burns and would often seek help from her, including cash handouts.

There was no sign of forced entry at Ms Burns’s terraced home on the outskirts of Killarney and no sign of a disturbance inside the house associated with a burglary.

However, gardaí are working to determine how much cash Ms Burns may have kept in her property and whether some was taken by her killer.

Detectives also believe the killer may have exited and re-entered her home 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.

The pensioner had apparently tried to defend herself from her attacker, with signs of a struggle in the room.

Ms Burns was discovered at lunchtime on Monday when a relative, who is based overseas, became concerned at his inability to contact her over the weekend.

The man rang an Ardshanavooly neighbour and he went with another neighbour to check on her.

Both were shocked to see the grandmother lying lifeless in the front room and they quickly left the property and contacted gardaí.

The death was immediately treated as suspicious, given the visible injuries to Ms Burns.

Gardaí sealed off the property and Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster conducted a post-mortem examination at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee on Tuesday.

Just over an hour after the post-mortem concluded, gardaí confirmed Ms Burns's death was being treated as murder.

Minutes later, a man in his 50s was arrested in the 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 before he should be either charged or released.

The man suffers from a very chaotic lifestyle and was known to Ms Burns.

She had kind-heartedly helped him on numerous occasions over recent times.

Sunday Independent sources indicated that the man has vehemently denied any involvement in her death.

The man, accompanied by his solicitor, well-known Killarney defence counsel Pádraig O’Connell, was taken by gardaí on Wednesday to two different locations in Killarney.

The areas involved — the Wishing Well and a patch of ground near Ross Castle — were carefully searched by technical officers, with clothing and other material recovered and taken for forensic testing.

When his period of detention expired at 1.37pm on Thursday, the man was released without charge.

Gardaí are now preparing a file on the matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

For operational reasons, gardaí have refused to release details of the post-mortem examination — but detectives are making “major progress” on the forensic and technical evidence which will now prove critical in the case.

One theory being examined is that Ms Burns was killed some time before her body was found on Monday, possibly on Saturday or Sunday.

The last reported sighting of Ms Burns — who was well known in Killarney for her insistence on cycling to events — was on Friday afternoon.

Gardaí have again appealed for public assistance with their murder investigation.

“Gardaí are appealing to any persons who were in the Ardshanavooly area of Killarney between 5pm on Friday (August 12) and 1pm on Monday (August 15) and observed any activity which drew their attention, to come forward,” a spokesperson said.

This includes anyone who may have driven through the area over the four days and whose vehicle is equipped with a dash-cam.

The shocked Killarney community will pay an emotional tribute to Ms Burns at her funeral service today.

Her funeral cortege will arrive at St Mary’s Cathedral at 2.15pm with a private cremation to follow the 4pm service.

The funeral notice said the 75-year-old was: “Devastatingly missed and infinitely loved by her children, grandchildren, sisters, brother and the whole of her extended family, friends, neighbours and the wider (Kerry) community.”

Emotional tributes were paid to Ms Burns, who was hailed by shocked friends and neighbours as “Killarney’s smiling lady”.

Councillor Donal Grady, who lives in Ardshanavooly, paid tribute to Miriam Burns, whom he knew personally and described as a wonderful mother and grandmother.

“The smiling lady is gone,” he said.

“This is a big loss to Killarney. She had a kind word for everyone. She had a smile for everyone — but now that smile is gone.

“This is a very close town. Everyone knows everyone else here and her loss will be felt very deeply.”

Ms Burns lived in the mature housing estate since the 1970s and was known for her involvement in community groups.

Neighbours said they would often see her on her bicycle around the estate and the town centre on an almost daily basis.

Ms Burns has four children, several of whom now live abroad.

She also hails from a large south Kerry family with a number of her siblings living in the greater Killarney area.

She adored travel and regularly visited various European cities, often travelling to meet up with some of her children.


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