GARDAI no longer believe that the two people found dead in an apparent murder-suicide in Limerick on Monday were shot, leading to speculation that they may have died by other means.
Doubts also remain over the length of time the bodies were in the house, with gardai investigating the possibility that one of the deceased was seen alive as recently as last month.
While a firearm was found close to the bodies, initial post mortem investigations have found no evidence that they died as a result of gunshot wounds. Gardai are now looking at other possible causes of death, including poisoning.
However, a garda source said their minds were “completely open” as to how the couple died and that “intensive” investigations were ongoing.
At this stage, gardai have not officially confirmed their identities, although they have been widely named as Julia Holmes, 63, and Tom Ruttle, 56.
The bodies were discovered by burglars during the course of a break-in at the farmhouse at Boolaglass, between Askeaton and Rathkeale, in the early hours of Monday morning. They were found in an upstairs bedroom of the rural farmhouse.
It was reported that two handwritten notes were discovered in the house, dated from March 14. However, gardai now believe that someone may have spoken to Mr Ruttle as recently as last month.
The state pathologist Marie Cassidy carried out a post mortem on the bodies on Monday night, but the results were inconclusive.
A garda spokesman said: “Following Dr Cassidy’s portmortem, further pathological tests will be needed.”
Toxicology tests have also been carried out, though it could be some weeks before the results of these are known.
The farmhouse, which is located on the busy R518, was owned by Thomas Ruttle. Ms Holmes - a convicted con woman - was wanted by the PSNI and the FBI.
The 63-year-old, who had more than 20 convictions, was deported from the United States in 2006 over a $500,000 property scam in Texas.
At various points, she also went by the names Julianne Ruttle, Croen Ruttle, Julia Watson as well as several other aliases.
It is understood Ms Holmes, who has been on the run from the authorities in Northern Ireland since 2011, had been living in the house with Mr Ruttle for a number of months.
Meanwhile, residents in the townland of Boolaglass have been speaking of their shock at what happened.
“I’m just in total shock really that something like this can happen next door to you. I would have known the owner of the house just by name and to see him but not on a personal basis,” said Elma Barry who lives near the farmhouse.
Local councillor, Emmett O’Brien, added: “This comes as a real shock in the community. It’s a very tranquil part of Askeaton with a large number of respectable families and farms in the area.”
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