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Murder-suicide verdict returned in Mayo inquest

Kitty Fitzgerald found dead in hallway of home, while husband Tom discovered outside

Paul Fitzgerald and his girlfriend Aoife O’Gorman leaving Castlebar Coroner’s Court, Co Mayo, after the inquest into the deaths of his parents Tom and Kitty Fitzgerald. Photograph : Keith Heneghan

A jury at the inquest of a husband and wife who died last November in a Mayo farmhouse have returned verdicts of murder-suicide.

Kitty Fitzgerald (72) was found dead in a pool of blood in the hallway of her home at Knockadoon near Irishtown, the inquest in Castlebar was told.

Her husband Tom (74) was founde dead in the adjoining yard with his head leaning into a water tank.

Nearby was a bottle of weedkiller. The cap of the bottle was in Mr Fitzgerald’s hand.

On the gravel nearby sat the couple’s son, Paul, who had been tasered and handcuffed by members of the armed Regional Support Unit when they arrived on the scene.

Paul’s face was badly bruised, there was a wound to the rear of his head and his clothing was bloodstained.

It appears from evidence given to the inquests that Tom Fitzgerald, a painter and decorator by profession, fatally assaulted his wife in the house and also attacked Paul with the same weapon – part of a scaffolding pole – knocking him to the ground.

The bar, heavily bloodstained, was discovered later by investigating officers in the Fitzgerald’s garden shed.

The cause of Ms Fitzgerald’s death was given to the inquest as “blunt force trauma to the head”.

The cause of Tom Fitzgerald’s death was the ingestion of corrosive fluid, weedkiller.

The inquest jury returned a verdict of homicide in the case of Kitty Fitzgerald.

In the case of her husband, Tom, they returned a verdict of self-inflicted homicide.

Following the verdict, coroner Pat O’ Connor said words failed him. He said it was probably one of the most difficult cases a coroner and the gardaí had to deal with, particularly for Paul Fitzgerald, both families and the entire community.

Words were inadequate, said the coroner, adding that all people can do is remember Tom and Kitty and learn something from their deaths. But he did not know what that was.

‘Strong’ relationship

In a statement read to the inquest, Paul Fitzgerald said he had no memory of the day’s shocking events and did not even know why he went to his parents’ home.

His last memory before the events, he explained, was of attending the movie, The Lion King, at Cherrywood Business Park in Dublin, with his girlfriend Aoife O’Gorman.

Mr Fitzgerald said he had worked with his father for a time as a painter but in latter years would only go home for weekends as he considered Galway city his home.

There was never any problem in the house between his parents, the witness continued, and he would described their relationship as “strong”.

Mr Fitzgerald went on to say his father had been depressed before his death and had been prescribed an anti-depressant. But he had “snapped out of it” after a few weeks.

He added that after injuring his knee on a paint job, his father was in pain. There was talk of him getting the knee replaced but he was in two minds about the operation.

“My father was concerned about the future because of the problem with his leg,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

He said the week prior to November 1st he had painted the front wall of the family home. That was the last time he had seen his parents.

Ms O’Gorman discovered the bodies and the badly-injured Paul Fitzgerald when she travelled from Galway City to Irishtown to try to find her boyfriend, whom she was unable to contact.

In a statement to gardaí, read to the inquest, Ms O’Gorman said she left Claregalway at about midday for Irishtown. She described contacting 999 stating she wanted an ambulance, that her boyfriend was in a serious state and his mother was badly hurt.

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