Gardaí believe men in Cork murder-suicide chose to let woman survive

Anne O’Sullivan had phone taken from her and smashed as she tried to flee Kanturk farm

Gardaí investigating a murder-suicide which left three members of the same family dead in a row over inheritance believe the killers deliberately chose to allow the woman at the centre of the row to survive the tragedy.

Gardaí believe following postmortems on the bodies of Tadg O'Sullivan (59) and his sons, Mark (26) and Diarmuid (23), and preliminary ballistic tests that Mr O'Sullivan snr and Diarmuid shot Mark in his bedroom in their family farmhouse at Raheen, Kanturk at around 6.40am on Monday.

The postmortem examination by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster confirmed that Mark O'Sullivan was shot seven times, and gardaí believe both Mr O'Sullivan snr and Diarmuid shot him using two .22 rifles which were legally held.

It is understood that Mr O’Sullivan’s wife, Ann, who had planned to leave at least some of the 115-acre farm to Mark, heard a commotion around 6.30am and had emerged into a hallway and saw her husband and younger son fire from the doorway into the bedroom where Mark was sleeping.


It is believed Mark tried to get up from the bunk bed after the first shot but then slumped on the floor when he was hit by a further six shots from the rifles, one of which was a semi-automatic weapon and the other a bolt-action rifle.

Ms O’Sullivan fled the scene in her nightdress, taking her mobile phone with her, but Mr O’Sullivan snr and Diarmuid caught up with her in the farmyard and took the phone from her, smashing it with a sledgehammer before confronting her about the row over the inheritance.

It is understood one of the two said to her, “I hope you think the land is worth it now,” before saying they planned to take their own lives and would be found near a fairy fort on the farm.

Neighbouring farm

Ms O’Sullivan, who had been discharged from hospital just two weeks earlier after surgery for a serious medical condition, struggled to make her way in the darkness to a neighbouring farm sometime after 7am to raise the alarm, saying her husband and Diarmuid had shot Mark.

Gardaí from Kanturk responded quickly but, arriving at the farmhouse, where Ms O’Sullivan was being comforted, they learned that two further shots had been heard around 7.10am and, unsure of the situation, held back and formed a cordon a safe distance from the O’Sullivan family farm.

Uniformed and armed detectives from the Cork North Division maintained a cordon at the holding at Raheen until an on-scene commander arrived from Cork City Division to take over the operation and they were joined at around 9am by members of the Armed Support Unit (ASU) from Cork.

Gardaí also set up an outer cordon preventing any traffic from travelling towards the O’Sullivan farm as gardaí at the inner cordon were joined by a trained negotiator who attempted to engage with any person who might be in the house.

Gardaí at the inner cordon were later joined by further ASU teams from Limerick, Waterford and Claremorris in Co Mayo and by members of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) from Dublin who have a higher level of training to deal with siege and hostage situations.

According to Garda sources, gardaí were aware of reports that Mr O’Sullivan and Diarmuid had stated they intended to kill themselves but they felt they could not take the risk of entering the house as they were not sure if one or more people were being held hostage by one or two gunmen.


They also decided to hold their position in the cordon to avoid a possible shoot-out with the armed man or men and it was only after the trained negotiator got no response after five hours of attempting to engage with anyone in the house that they made the decision to enter the property.

Armed members of the ERU, equipped with bulletproof shields, forced their way in through the front door at around 1pm, supported by armed members of the regional armed support unit, and they discovered the body of Mark O’Sullivan in his bedroom.

Mark O’Sullivan was pronounced dead at the scene.

Gardaí could find no sign of Mr O'Sullivan snr and Diarmuid O'Sullivan, but the Garda Air Support Unit helicopter spotted two bodies lying by a fairy fort some four fields from the house at around 1.40pm and members of the ERU and ASU made their way to the scene.

There they found the bodies of Mr O’Sullivan snr and Diarmuid O’Sullivan, each with a single gunshot wound to the head, while beside them they found the two rifles and also a 12-page apparent suicide letter written by Diarmuid, strapped to his thigh with clingfilm.

The suicide note, which was written prior the two men shooting Mark O’Sullivan, indicated that the two men had been planning the killing for some time when Ms O’Sullivan and Mark had been in Dublin while she was undergoing surgery for a serious medical condition.

Gardaí are satisfied from the postmortems on Mr O’Sullivan snr and Diarmuid carried out by Dr Bolster that each man took his own life, and they believe the suicides had been pre-planned.

If you are affected by any issue in this article, please contact Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or the Samaritans by telephoning 116 123 (free) or by emailing

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times