Sarah Hassall, 38, was found dead in a block of flats in Pontypridd, south Wales, on the weekend and neighbours say police were searching for “a weapon”.
Sarah, who worked for 14 years as a mountain rescue expert in both the RAF and the Royal Engineers, was a loving mum and fitness fanatic, her grief-stricken family said.
Distraught relatives, from Chelmsford, Essex, said: “After growing up in the family home in Chelmsford, Sarah dedicated herself to 14 years of military service in both the RAF and the Royal Engineers.
“Her career was dominated by her commitment to mountain search and rescue – Sarah represented her units at both rock climbing competitions and competitive running.
“Sarah left the army in 2010 to embark on, and excel at, even greater challenges – raising two young boys, Owain and Evan.
“Sarah was my best friend and touched many more lives along the way. We all now mourn her passing, grateful for the short time we had in her company.”
The heartbroken family are being supported by specially trained family liaison officers.
South Wales Police have arrested a 37-year-old man on suspicion of murder.
Neighbours in peaceful Pontypridd said dozens of police officers were in the town on Sunday.
One said: “They were searching the bins and the drains, we think they were looking for a weapon.”
A force spokesman said: “The investigation into her death, which is being treated as murder, is ongoing.
“The 37 year-old man from Pontypridd, who has been arrested in connection with her murder, remains in police custody.”