Gardaí in Sligo have begun a murder investigation following the discovery of the badly mutilated body of Fine Gael activist Aidan Moffitt at his home.
Gardaí said they are “are actively investigating as to whether there is any hate related motive” to the murder. They are also investigating whether Mr Moffitt met his killer online.
Mr Moffitt (41), who worked in the property sector and was a peace commissioner for his local area, was found by a cleaner in his home in Cartron Heights, Sligo at about 8.30pm on Monday evening.
There were clear signs he died violently and his body showed evidence of extremely serious injuries.
His body was removed from the scene to University Hospital Sligo late on Tuesday afternoon. Gardaí are currently describing his death as “unexplained” while they await the results of a postmortem by the State Pathologist.
Mr Moffitt was a single man who lived on his own in the house, which is located just outside Sligo Town.
He was last seen in public on Sunday afternoon in the Village Inn Pub in Cartron and was last seen online by friends shortly afterwards.
Gardaí suspect the attack occurred sometime on Sunday evening and that his body remained undiscovered for about 24 hours.
There was no sign of a break-in and investigators believe Mr Moffitt likely allowed his assailant into his home before the attack.
One angle of investigation is likely to focus on if Mr Moffitt met a person on a dating app before letting them into his home.
Garda sources said the victim’s home is equipped with a strong security system, with a large fence and CCTV.
Warm and friendly
Detectives will also examine if the murder has any links to a recent stabbing attack in Sligo which left a man with serious eye injuries.
Mr Moffitt was described by those who knew him on Tuesday as a warm and friendly man. Frank Feighan, the local Fine Gael TD and Minister of State at the Department of Health said the victim was a good friend.
“He was well liked. He was very involved in business and politics and had a word for everybody. It came as a huge shock,” the TD said.
After visiting the scene, Mr Feighan said that everyone in the community was numb, and shocked by reports that the man had died in violent circumstances.
“If this is the case I hope the perpetrators are quickly brought to justice,” said the TD. “I am thinking of his family today.”
The Mayor of Sligo, Cllr Arthur Gibbons said he walked past Mr Moffitt's door every day on his way to his home in the adjoining estate.
“My thoughts are with this man’s family today. This should not have happened,” said the Sinn Féin councillor. “I would appeal to anyone who noticed anything, now matter how small , to assist the gardaí with their inquiries.”
Mr Moffitt ran a company called Hazelfort which was involving in the selling of homes in Sligo. He also ran a financial advice business and was a graduate of UCD and the Institute of Technology in Sligo.
He served on a voluntary basis on a number of local communities and was very active with his party. It is understood he was recently elected to Fine Gael’s Sligo-Strandhill Municipal Area Committee.
“He was someone who was well-liked by those who knew him. He was a messer, he was good crack,” his close friend and fellow Fine Gael activist Blaine Gaffney told the Irish Times.
"He was very loyal. He was a big supporter of my own politically," said Mr Gaffney who is a local area representative for Fine Gael in Sligo. "He was just an all-round good guy. It's just shocking, it doesn't make sense."
As neighbours left floral tributes close to the scene, one friend said that anyone who knew Mr Moffitt was baffled by the crime. "He was a regular country lad, mad into horses and into Roscommon GAA," said Brendan Tierney. "He was a financial genius. He used to work for Bank of Ireland and Irish Life but he was also a very likable man who would help anyone."
While Mr Moffitt bought the house in Sligo about six years ago, Mr Tierney said he spent more time staying with his mother Kathleen in Lisacul near Ballaghaderreen, "minding her and doing her shopping and getting dinners".
Friends said Mr Moffitt had shares in a number of horses over the years and had a photograph of one winner prominently displayed in his home. His black Mercedes was also his pride and joy, they said.
The Garda has offered the following advice to those speaking with or intending to meet up with anyone they have met online:
- Get a face picture from the person you intend to meet. Be very cautious of a person who doesn’t share a recent face picture with you, particularly after you have shared yours.
- If they don’t want to share a face picture, consider asking them to go on a live video call (many apps have this option built in so you don’t have to share your mobile number).
- Ask for their social media handles. Do you have friends in common on Instagram or Facebook? Be wary of new accounts with low follower count and few posts.
- Let friends know where you’re going - send a text to a trusted friend or in a group chat, include your live location so you can be found if you need help.
- Meet in a public place first. Take a few minutes to chat and feel confident you want to proceed before going somewhere private.
- Think before accepting food or drink. Unless you’ve seen them prepare it - it’s best not to accept to avoid being spiked.
- If an emergency unfolds, call 999. If something happens - report it.