Kanturk inquest: Son taunted mother after shooting brother dead

Tadg O’Sullivan (59) and his younger son, Diarmuid (23) shot victim in row over farm

Diarmaid O’Sullivan (23, right), his father Tadg O’Sullivan (59, left) and another son, Mark (26, centre) died at the family farm.

Diarmaid O’Sullivan (23, right), his father Tadg O’Sullivan (59, left) and another son, Mark (26, centre) died at the family farm.

 

The jury at an inquest into the deaths of a father and two sons in Kanturk, Co Cork in October 2020 has returned a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Mark O’Sullivan (26) and verdicts of suicide in the cases of Tadg and Diarmuid O’Sullivan.

The father and son shot their son and brother in a dispute over who would inherit the family farm in North Cork and had been planning the murder for at least a couple of days, the inquest heard on Wednesday.

Tadg O’Sullivan (59) and his younger son, Diarmuid (23) shot Mr O’Sullivan’s eldest son, Mark (26) dead at their family home outside Castlemagner in North Cork early on the morning of October 25th, 2020, the inquest heard.

The killing related to a dispute over who would inherit the 115 acre farm belonging to their mother, Anne, who had been diagnosed in February 2020 with terminal cancer and Diarmuid wanted his mother to leave all the farm to him whereas she wanted to split it evenly between her two sons.

The inquest heard Diarmuid taunted his mother just seconds after he and his father opened fire on his brother as he slept at the family farm.

They fired a volley of shots at him from two legally-held .22 rifles at him in his bedroom at Rahan, Kanturk before taking their own lives.

“That’s the trail of destruction from your solicitor’s letter, live with that now,” Diarmuid told his mother after shooting Mark, whom Ms O’Sullivan found slumped on the floor lifeless and covered in blood.

Ms O’Sullivan tried to get one of their cars and drive from the isolated farmhouse but Tadg and Diarmuid had changed the locks on the gate on the driveway so she had to make her way on foot across rough country for over 500 metres to raise the alarm with her nearest neighbours, the Cronins.

The inquest before coroner for North Cork, Dr Michael Kennedy heard how Ann Cronin contacted Kanturk Garda station at 7.25am and they responded quickly and mounted an inner and outer cordon around the farm, thinking they might be dealing with a hostage, barricade or suicide incident.

Garda response

The inquest heard from Det Insp Annemarie Twomey who told how armed members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and the Armed Support Unit (ASU) entered the farmhouse where they found the body of Mark O’Sullivan and he was pronounced dead by Dr Adrian Murphy at 12.46pm.

The Garda Air Support Unit later spotted two bodies lying near a fairy fort in a field some 500 metres from the farmhouse. The ERU and ASU then approached the bodies and both Tadg and Diarmuid O’Sullivan were pronounced dead by Dr Murphy at 1.47pm.

Det Sgt David O’Leary from the Garda Technical Bureau said gardaí recovered two legally-held firearms, a .22 Squires Bingham semi-automatic rifle and a .22 calibre CZ make bolt rifle at the scene and both weapons were examined as were cartridges found in the farmhouse and in the field.

He said that the cartridges recovered from the field and the position where the weapons were found suggested that Diarmuid shot himself first with the semi-automatic weapon and Tadg then used the same gun to shoot himself.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster said she was satisfied that injuries suffered by Tadg and Diarmuid were self -inflicted and both died quickly with the cause of death in both cases being due to traumatic brain injury due to a gunshot wound.

Dr Bolster said that she found evidence that Mark had been hit seven times when he was shot and she said that he would have died rapidly from traumatic brain injury with extensive lacerations to the lungs and liver due to multiple gunshot wounds.

The inquest also heard evidence that gardaí found a letter in Diarmuid’s jeans pocket when they found his body in the field and a letter in Tadg’s jacket during postmortem, both of which were dated October 23rd, suggesting that they had planned the murder-suicide at least three days earlier.

The jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Mark O’Sullivan and verdicts of suicide in the cases of both Tadg and Diarmuid O’Sullivan after hearing almost four hours of evidence.

Dr Kennedy described the sequence of events as “a terrible tragedy that was beyond comprehension” and noted that he usually extended his condolences to the immediate family but there was no one left alive in the O’Sullivan family following Anne’s death from cancer in April.

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