Cork murder suicide had origins in dispute over land, inquest hears

Younger son had threatened to self harm over farm inheritance, mother told gardaí

The farm in Assolas, Kanturk, northeast Co Cork, where Mark O’Sullivan was murdered in October 2020 by his brother, Diarmuid and his father, Tadg, who died by suicide after the killing. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

The farm in Assolas, Kanturk, northeast Co Cork, where Mark O’Sullivan was murdered in October 2020 by his brother, Diarmuid and his father, Tadg, who died by suicide after the killing. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The deaths of three members of one family in a murder-suicide incident near Kanturk last year had its origins in a dispute over their farm, an inquest has heard.

The inquest into the deaths of Mark O’Sullivan (26), who was shot dead by his father, Tadg (59), and his younger brother, Diarmuid (23), who later took their own lives, painted a picture of a family hurtling towards division and disaster amid a dispute over who would inherit 115 acres of farm land.

Details of how the tragedy unfolded were revealed through statements that Anne O’Sullivan made to gardaí in the days and weeks after the tragedy, knowing that she was terminally ill with the cancer which ultimately claimed her life on April 7th.

She recounted how she and Tadg had met in 1991 and married two years later. He moved into the 115-acre holding at Raheen just outside Kanturk to live with her and her mother. The couple later had two sons, Mark, who completed a law degree at the University of Limerick in 2017, and Diarmuid, who studied accountancy in Cork Institute of Technology.

Diagnosis

Ms O’Sullivan said she was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 but recovered. At the time, the farm was not an issue between herself and her husband but when she was told in February 2020 that she was terminally ill, the property, which was solely in her name, moved centre stage.

Ms O’Sullivan said that when she received her diagnosis she spoke to Mark about splitting the farm equally between himself and his brother.

She recalled how, in May 2020, Tadg and Diarmuid rounded on her for not getting her affairs in order, accusing her of being lazy and indecisive.

In July 2020, Diarmuid spoke to her about his vision for the farm and said Mark could have the farmhouse and yard as well as about 30 acres of bog land but that he deserved the rest of the farm as he was the one who worked it. She said he became angry when she said she planned to split it evenly.

The inquest heard that Diarmuid told his mother she had a week to change her mind or there would be consequences.

A week later, he told her his mental health was suffering and that if he did not get the bulk of the farm he would self harm and end up in the local cemetery.

Tadg, who told his wife that he only married her for the land and did not love her, seemed to be egging on his son and warned “he will do it, he will do it”, the inquest heard.

Ms O’Sullivan said her husband told her he would not be long behind his son and warned that she would be following two coffins into the graveyard if she did not change her mind.

Later in July, Diarmuid and Mark went for a walk and when they returned, the younger brother said the matter had been sorted with a deal that saw Mark get 40 to 45 acres. However, Mark later told his mother he was not happy with the deal but had agreed to it only to try to pacify the situation.

Will

She told gardaí she had not made a will but, under pressure from Tadg and Diarmuid, got her solicitor to write to them saying that she was not well enough to make one.

As her condition deteriorated and she went for surgery in Dublin, it was Mark who accompanied her and cared for her.

She later made a will dividing the farm almost evenly, which provoked an angry response from Diarmuid, whom she said had become obsessed with money. When he challenged her about it again on October 9th and she told him she had tweaked the will, he became furious.

After a hospital appointment on October 12th, she went to stay with her cousins, the Sherlocks, for a fortnight. She agreed to return home on October 25th after she received two letters sent to her solicitor by Tadg and Diarmuid asking her to come home so they could resolve matters.

Mark was reluctant to return home as he feared his brother and father would kill him and his mother but he agreed to do so as he did not want her to go alone.

Less than 12 hours later, he was shot dead.