Elderly couple lay dead for several days in Kilkenny home

Postmortems awaited but carbon monoxide regarded as likely cause of deaths

The scene where an elderly couple were found dead at Kilderry, on the Johnswell Road outside Kilkenny city. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

The scene where an elderly couple were found dead at Kilderry, on the Johnswell Road outside Kilkenny city. Photograph: Dylan Vaughan

 

The bodies of an elderly couple lay undiscovered in their home for several days before family members became concerned and raised the alarm with gardaí.

Michael Hurley (83) and Mary Holohan (79) lived together at the house in Johnswell on the edge of Kilkenny city.

The strongest line of inquiry at present is that their deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning rather than foul play, sources said.

However, the findings of postmortems and toxicology tests on the couple, due to be carried out on Friday at University Hospital Waterford, will determine the causes of death and if a criminal inquiry is required. The postmortems were initially scheduled for Thursday but had to be postponed as the pathologist due to perform them was attending a murder trial in Dublin.

Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Fitzpatrick said the “terrible” news of the couple’s death had shocked the community.

“They were a beautiful couple – quiet, lovely people who went about their business daily,” he said. “They were very, very reserved people – they lived a very quiet life together. They went to the local shop in Kilkenny and supported everything in the community.”

Concerned

Their bodies were discovered after family members became concerned about their welfare having not heard from them for some time and went to the house on Wednesday at about 7pm.

The house was sealed off after gardaí were contacted by the couple’s family and the bodies were left in situ pending the arrival of a pathologist and an examination of the scene by members of the Garda technical bureau.

‘A tragic accident’

“We haven’t ruled anything out but we believe it’s a tragic accident,” a Garda source said. “They were two elderly people and it appears that it was carbon monoxide poisoning. I’d be very shocked if it was anything else.”

Carbon monoxide is produced when organic matter such as coal, oil or wood used in heating systems or fires does not burn off fully. The main reasons for the poisoning occurring are poorly installed or maintained appliances, blocked chimneys or flues, and poor ventilation, according to the HSE.