TRAGIC granny Mary O’Keeffe’s body was found in a male friend’s burning car, it emerged yesterday.
And the Irish Sun has learnt a can of flammable material in the motor may have caused the horror blaze to get worse — with the fuel tank quickly exploding.
The 75-year-old’s remains were found in an ablaze Dacia Duster at a forest in Doneraile, Co Cork, on Thursday evening.
A man in his 60s was yesterday arrested and is being questioned at Fermoy Garda Station.
The alarm was raised by a walker who saw smoke coming from the woods at around 3.30pm on Thursday.
Cork County Fire Services rushed to the scene along with gardai and paramedics, but there was nothing they could do apart from quench the inferno.
The pensioner’s body was unidentifiable because of the fire’s intensity and formal identification will have to be made through DNA and possibly dental records.
Mary’s distinctive white car was found a short distance from where the fire broke out. It and the burnt-out motor were removed from the scene yesterday.
It’s believed the OAP walked into the forest area at Drumdeer, near Doneraile, to meet up with a male friend and was in his car when the fire took hold.
The Irish Sun understands there was a can of flammable material in the car and a spark may have ignited the fumes, causing the fast-spreading fire.
Mary was immediately engulfed in the flames, but her companion escaped from the driver’s side of the car with very minor burns.
He wandered from the scene in a distraught condition and was later rescued from the fast-flowing Awbeg River about 4km away.
He was treated by paramedics before being taken to Cork University Hospital where he was treated for hypothermia.
It’s understood his family travelled from Limerick to be with him while his condition stabilised and he was discharged from hospital yesterday afternoon.
Mary’s remains were taken to Cork University Hospital where a post mortem is being carried out by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster. Cops will be relying on information from this to determine exactly how she died.
Mum-of-three Mary lived all her life in the village of Dromahane, near Mallow, where locals are trying to come to terms with the loss of a long-time member of their rural north Cork community.
Described by neighbours as very caring and helpful, she worked every morning as a cook in a Mallow sheltered housing complex.
Shocked Ann O’Shea, who has been a neighbour of Mary in Thomas Russell Park for 48 years, said the blaze victim liked her privacy and her own company.
She said: “Mary lived here all her life with her husband Donal, who died about 25 years ago.
“She has three children, Ger and twins Christy and Donal. They used to play with my children. She has a number of grandchildren and she loved them all.
“I can’t believe she is gone, I was only talking to her two days before she died. She was in great form and we had a chat from our backyards, checking on how each of us was feeling.
“She was in fine health. Mary tended to keep to herself but she loved, in past years, going to the local hall for a game of 45s and she just loved dancing. She was a regular in the local entertainment centres where dancing was held.
“She was living in her house alone for many years but that never bothered her as she had her beloved dogs whom she loved to walk. I think she had a partner, but he didn’t live with her. He used to call regularly.
“She was warm and friendly and a very caring person. She looked after her brother in law when he had cancer until he passed away. She had just got a lovely new white car. I joked with her that she must be loaded and she laughed and said ‘Not now Ann’.”
She added: “She was such a lovely, kind person and she didn’t deserve to die the way she did. I feel so much for her poor family and I am praying for them.”
Retired school teacher and neighbour John Cavanagh, who taught the O’Keeffe children, said Mary was very proud of her sons.
He said: “They are a lovely family and Mary was a very kind and considerate person. She was a great neighbour and I am really going to miss her.”
And Fr Gerard Coleman, the parish priest in Dromahane said the community are in grief.
He said: “People are feeling very shocked. It was unexpected. No one envisaged anything like this.”
He added: “She was a hard working woman who lived in the community for many years.
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“We are behind the family to support them with all our prayers and be there for them. They are in everyone’s thoughts here and sadly it is the topic of conversation around the village at the moment.”
“We are here to support the family going through this tragedy.”
Cops appealed for anyone who was in the Doneraile area from 3-5pm, especially with dash-cam or mobile phone footage, to call them in Fermoy on 025 82100.