An elderly nun who was found dead in the grounds of her convent in the small Irish town of Ballybay had been sexually assaulted and strangled, a post-mortem examination revealed yesterday.
Sister Philomena Lyons, 68, was found dead outside St Joseph's convent in County Monaghan on Saturday night.
Other nuns had raised the alarm when the popular former teacher failed to catch a bus to meet her colleagues at a convent in Dublin, where she was due at a friend's 100th birthday celebrations. A police officer said: "It just makes the whole sad affair even more tragic."
Her handbag was found near her body, which was taken to Cavan General Hospital for the post-mortem examination.
She had lived in Ballybay for about 30 years after moving from Mallow in County Cork to work as a teacher. She retired two years ago. The nuns at her convent, which is part of the Sacred Heart order, were said to be in shock.
Padraig Duffy, a barman, said: "It was very shocking, nothing like this has ever happened here before. She was a teacher in the town for many years, so most people who are aged around 40 or 50 knew her very well. She was very popular."
Police appealed for any witnesses to come forward.