Blood around her face revealed she had been the victim of a violent assault She was found lying on her side in the front room of her home Marks on her neck indicate an apparent attempt to strangle her Man arrested in connection with her murder has been released without charge
The body of the 75-year-old was found in her Kerry home on Monday and blood around her face revealed she had been the victim of a violent assault.
Detectives fear she was brutally beaten to death in her home and had been dead for some time when she was discovered.
Sources have indicated that marks on her neck also indicated an apparent attempt to strangle her.
Detectives launched a murder investigation on Tuesday evening into the death.
A man arrested and questioned by gardaí on suspicion of the murder of Ms Burns (75) has been released without charge.
The man, who is in his 50s and known to the deceased, was questioned for three days in connection with the killing of the woman hailed as "Killarney's smiling lady".
Gardaí will now prepare a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on the matter.
Detectives arrested a man in his 50s within an hour of the murder investigation being confirmed.
The man, who was arrested in the south Kerry area, was taken to Killarney garda station where he was detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, which allowed him to be questioned for up to 24 hours.
Killarney defence solicitor Padraig O'Connell attended the garda station and is acting for the individual.
The man was given a medical assessment and took both food and rest breaks over the past three days.
He was questioned throughout Wednesday and Thursday.
His period of detention expired at lunchtime and gardaí released him without charge.
However, the man is liaising with gardaí over a separate and totally unrelated matter.
The man was brought by gardaí on Wednesday to two sites in Killarney being searched by forensic experts as part of their investigation.
Uniformed officers and detectives carried out a detailed search of an area around the old wishing well on Wednesday morning. A second site near Ross Castle was also examined.
The primary target of the search operation is understood to be the recovery of clothing and material which may potentially be connected to the killing.
A source said the investigation into Ms Burns's killing is now at an advanced stage, adding: "Forensic results will be absolutely critical in this investigation."
Gardaí believe Ms Burns was fatally assaulted in her home some time between Friday and Monday.
They are investigating whether she was the target of threatening behaviour some time ago and whether that may be linked to her death.
Gardaí refused to release the findings of a post mortem examination for operational reasons, but confirmed they are treating the pensioner's death as murder.
"A post-mortem examination was conducted on Tuesday at University Hospital Kerry (UHK) by State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster, the results of which are not being released for operational reasons," a Garda spokesperson said.
"An incident room has been established at Killarney garda station and a murder investigation has commenced under the direction of a senior investigating officer.
"A Family Liaison Officer has been appointed and continues to keep the family informed of the 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."
Neighbours had called to the house after one of Ms Burns's children, who lives overseas, became deeply concerned at being unable to contact her.
They discovered the pensioner lifeless and with visible injuries in the front room, and immediately rang gardaí.
Detectives are trying to confirm her last known movements. Local sources indicated that Ms Burns, who was very active in a number of Killarney-based groups, had not been seen locally since last Friday evening.
There was no sign of forced entry at the terraced property.
Door-to-door inquiries were conducted in an area described by locals as a very quiet residential part of Killarney. CCTV security camera footage from the area, which is located close to a Tesco shopping centre and a McDonald's outlet, is expected to prove crucial in the investigation.
The pensioner lived for most of her adult life in the Ardshanavooly area but is understood to be originally from Milltown. She is from a large and highly respected family in south Kerry.
Ms Burns was an avid gardener and known especially for the roses she grew.
Councillor Donal Grady, who lives in Ardshanavooly, paid tribute to Ms 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 had lived in the mature housing estate since the 1970s and was known for her involvement in community groups. Neighbours said they would see Ms Burns on her bicycle around the estate and the town centre on almost a daily basis.
Her neighbour Ann Cronin said it was "a desperate tragedy" for the estate, the family and the entire Killarney community.
"She really was a lovely person. She was very good to her family, her friends and her neighbours. Everyone feels desperate, to be honest."
Neighbour Paul O'Shea fought back tears at the news of her death.
"It is terrible, really terrible. She was a lovely, lovely lady. She had a kind word for everyone she met. It (the tragedy) is hurting."
Tom Wharton, who lived in Ardshanavooly for seven years, said Ms Burns always had a cheery wave and a warm smile for neighbours.
"It is such a sad, sad story. It is a desperate thing to happen, especially to such a nice lady," he said.
Councillor Niall "Botty” O'Callaghan said it was a desperately sad day for Killarney.
"She was a very elegant lady and a kind-hearted person," he said. "Miriam has a large extended family in Killarney and they are really fabulous people. They are very well known and highly respected in the town. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.
"This has impacted on every part of Killarney. Miriam was a lovely lady and you'd see her cycling up and down the town. She was a fabulous lady, always smiling, and a warm wave to anyone she met. She loved talking to people and she would chat all day."
Ardshanavooly is a popular residential area located within walking distance of Killarney town centre and popular local amenities including the Killarney Outlet Centre.
Ms Burns has four children, several of whom now live abroad. She adored travel and regularly visited European cities, often travelling to meet up with some of her children.