The parents of a murdered 12-year-old girl have said it was their worst fear to "lose a child so full of life".
Brendan and Deirdre Davis said they were desperately trying to get their heads around the killing of their daughter Michaela. Her body was discovered in undergrowth by a man walking along the Royal Canal in west Dublin on Saturday evening.
The grieving couple said their daughter's death was a needless, awful tragedy and insisted the family was always there for one another.
"This is a heart-wrenching situation," the distraught parents said. "A young 12-year-old girl who was full of life has been lost. She was very close to her mum, dad and (teenage) brother Brendan. They were always there for one another."
A private Mass has been arranged for relatives in the Davis family home on Tuesday night. A funeral service for Michaela will be held on Thursday at St Mochta's Church where she was christened and celebrated her First Communion and Confirmation.
An 18-year-old appeared in court in Dublin charged with her murder. Jonathan Byrne, from Lohunda Downs in Clonsilla, west Dublin - a few streets from where the dead girl lived - is accused of the killing near the Porterstown Road, a few minutes walk from her home.
Michaela may have been beaten and strangled, sources said.
She was last seen after midnight on Saturday when she told her parents she was going out for a few minutes to meet a friend. Michaela was reported missing at about 2.30am and an extensive search launched. She had enjoyed her first day of secondary school at Luttrellstown Community College the previous Thursday.
"All Michaela's friends are heartbroken at the moment and cannot get their heads around this tragedy, no more than the rest of the extended family and friends," Michaela`s family said in a statement.
"The needless loss of a young child, the awful tragedy of a girl barely beginning life. This situation is not and never will be about the crime or the perpetrator - it's about Michaela, and the realisation of a parent's worst fear to lose a child so full of life."