Gardaí in Cork murder-suicide case examining if brothers rowed over livestock
Investigators believe that mental health issues may provide clue to the tragedy
Garda at the farm near Curraghgorm, Co Cork, on Friday. The results of postmortems on the three men have not yet been released for operational reasons. Photograph: Brendan Gleeson/PA Wire
Gardaí investigating a murder-suicide incident that claimed the lives of three brothers in Co Cork are focusing on whether one of the men may have become unstable as part of a dispute over the sale of livestock.
Investigators said they were sceptical about suggestions that Johnny Hennessy (59) attacked and killed his brothers, Willie (66) and Paddy (60), as part of a row about the ownership or possible inheritance of their 15-acre holding at Curraghgorm outside Mitchelstown.
Instead, sources said they were looking closely at the possibility that a dispute broke out between the brothers over the sale of some of their herd of 15 bullocks.
It is understood the three brothers owned the property but that Paddy, who had suffered a stroke some months back, may not have been involved in the purchase of the bullocks and that his exclusion from decisions about selling them may have given rise to tensions.
The investigation is still at an early stage and Garda sources stressed that while a dispute over the animals may have been the trigger, they are also looking into any mental health issues suffered by Johnny, whom they are satisfied killed his brothers before taking his own life.
Gardaí have examined mobile phones belonging to the men and believe Johnny killed Willie and Paddy some time before 6pm on Thursday. They suspect that Johnny drove to the Funcheon river near Killacluig at about 10pm and took his own life near where another brother, Jerry, died by suicide in 2014.
The results of postmortems on the three men, carrried out by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster, have not been released for operational reasons.
However, it is understood they confirm that Willie and Paddy died from severe head injuries consistent with being attacked with an axe.
The findings are understood to suggest that Willie was attacked from behind in a timbering shed as he had no defensive wounds, while Paddy appears to have been attacked head-on by his killer in the timbering yard.
The alarm was raised just before midnight on Thursday after Paddy’s daughter and ex-wife became concerned when he failed to return to his daughter’s home in Mitchelstown from a visit to the farm.
They made their way to the farm and found Paddy severely injured and immediately phoned gardaí, who they drove to meet along the N73 Mitchelstown to Mallow road before being accompanied back to the scene.
Gardaí initially thought Paddy had been shot, due to his injuries, and they requested backing from an armed support unit, which established a cordon around the farm before discovering Willie’s body.
An axe was found near Willie’s body and while investigators are still trying to establish the sequence of events, they are satisfied that both men were killed by their younger brother.
They expect that a forensic examination of the axe will confirm it was used by Johnny and believe a technical examination of the murder scenes and blood on a Toyota Corolla van will also help them piece together what happened.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has confirmed it is to examine Garda involvement in the case after it emerged that gardaí had been in contact with Johnny earlier on Thursday after they received a call from some of his relatives.
The relatives are understood to have been concerned about Johnny having not been very coherent when he phoned them but, when gardaí contacted him by phone, he assured them he was fine. Gardaí did not call out to the farm as there appeared to be nothing to suggest that anyone was at risk.