Cork shootings: Gardaí hope ballistics report can provide answers

Examination of firearms may reveal ‘who fired which gun at which person’

Three relatives have died in an apparent murder-suicide on a farm in Kanturk, north Co Cork. The shooting incident has left a father (late 50s) and his two sons (aged in their 20s) dead. Video: Provision

 

Gardaí investigating the murder-suicide that left three members of the same family dead at a farm in north Cork are hoping a technical examination of two firearms recovered at the scene will clarify the exact sequence of what happened to the three men who died.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster completed her postmortem examinations on Tuesday on the bodies of father Tadhg O’Sullivan (59) and his son Diarmuid (23), who were each found with single gunshot wounds to the head in a field on their farm near Castlemagner.

Dr Bolster is expected to carry out a postmortem on Wednesday on the body of Mr O’Sullivan’s other son, Mark (26), whom gardaí believe was shot in his bed by possibly both his brother and his father at about 6.40am on Monday over a grievance they had over a proposed will.

Garda sources are hoping that a technical examination of both rifles recovered from beside Tadhg and Diarmuid O’Sullivan will shed some light on who shot whom some time after 7am, in what gardaí believe was a suicide pact between the father and son in the field.

“We are hoping that the technical examination of both firearms including an examination for fingerprint and DNA evidence as well as an examination by ballistic experts of casings will reveal as far is possible, who fired which gun at which person,” said a Garda source.

Gardaí are also hoping Dr Bolster’s postmortem on Mark O’Sullivan along with an examination by a ballistics expert of casings found in his bedroom will help establish how exactly he was killed, with initial indications suggesting he suffered more than one gunshot wound.

Gardaí are keeping an open mind on what exactly happened in the fatal shooting of Mark O’Sullivan but they are not discounting the possibility that he may have been first shot while in bed and then shot a second time while struggling to get from bed to confront his attacker or attackers.

Again, they are hoping that ballistics experts will be able tell whether or not one or both rifles recovered from beside Tadhg and Diarmuid O’Sullivan were used to kill Mark and whether he was killed by one or both family members.

Tadhg O’Sullivan. Photograph: Family Handout/PA Wire
Tadhg O’Sullivan. Photograph: Family Handout/PA Wire

Will dispute

Gardaí are continuing to investigate whether the tragedy was linked to a dispute over a proposed will, which had divided the family in recent weeks. Mark apparently sided with his mother, Ann, and Diarmuid sided with his father in the dispute over who should inherit their farm.

Officers have carried out door-to-door inquiries in the Castlemagner area and have also spoken to workmates of Tadhg O’Sullivan, who worked as a mechanic in Buttevant, as well as friends of Mark and Diarmuid.

Gardaí were particularly anxious to establish the veracity or otherwise of reports that Diarmuid had been very angry and agitated in recent days and weeks and had felt so aggrieved he might not get what he had hoped for in terms of inheritance that he had threatened to harm himself or others.

It is understood Ms O’Sullivan had been accompanied by Mark to Dublin earlier this month for surgery for a serious medical condition but that when they returned to Castlemagner two weeks ago, they opted to stay with relatives rather than return to the family home.

It is understood that locks had been changed on the property while they were away but they returned to the family home on Sunday night only for Ms O’Sullivan to be awoken at about 6.40am to discover Mark had been shot in his bedroom.

Ms O’Sullivan managed to escape from the farmhouse and make her way to a neighbour’s house to raise the alarm, prompting a major Garda response involving armed officers from the Emergency Response Unit in Dublin and Armed Support Units from Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Mayo.

Incorrect media reports

Personnel from the Dublin unit backed up by personnel from the other units entered the farmhouse at about 1pm to discover the body of Mark O’Sullivan in the house, while the bodies of Tadhg and Diarmuid O’Sullivan were spotted by the Garda Air Support Unit in a field at about 1.40pm

Ms O’Sullivan (60), an only child, had inherited the 115-acre holding from her parents. Tadhg O’Sullivan had married into the farm but neither he nor either of his sons ever worked the holding, which was leased out to neighbouring farmers for tillage crops for more than 30 years.

It’s also understood that the dispute in the family over the proposed will, which began some months ago, had worsened in recent weeks and solicitors’ letters had been exchanged between Ms O’Sullivan and her husband.

Gardaí would not be drawn on the possible motive for the three deaths, but they did say some media reports that they had been called to the home two weeks ago were not correct.