Man may have already killed brothers when he called sister, gardaí believe

Investigators unable to find motive for double killing and suicide in Mitchelstown

Gardaí believe a north Cork man may have already killed his two older brothers when he rang his sister to say he had had a row with them and assured gardaí there was no need for officers to visit their farm.

Gardaí investigating the murder of brothers, Willie (66) and Paddy Hennessy (60) at Curraghgorm, Mitchelstown, believe both men may have already been killed by their younger brother, Johnny (59), when he rang his sister, Breda O'Reilly, at about 6pm on February 25th to say there had been a row.

Ms O'Reilly, who lives in Anglesboro in Co Limerick, rang the gardaí in Mitchelstown and passed on Johnny's number to them and they rang Johnny but he assured them everything had been resolved and there was no need for them to call out and he later rang Ms O'Reilly to similarly reassure her.

Gardaí are satisfied from their inquiries and postmortem examinations by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margot Bolster that Johnny killed Paddy and Willie in the timbering yard near their 15-acre family holding at Curraghgorm before taking his own life in the nearby river Funcheon.

However, gardaí remain baffled as to the motive for Johnny’s murder of his two older siblings despite a number of stories circulating locally that the brothers had a falling-out, possibly over the sale of yearlings or possibly over a timber round that they operated in the Mitchelstown area.

"There were a lot of stories circulating afterwards that they had a falling-out over the sale of yearlings they were due to bring to Fermoy Mart or that they had a falling-out over Paddy's timber round when he got a stroke last year or that they had a row over selling some land," said one source.

Medical history

“But we’ve looked at it all very closely and spoken to people who knew the brothers, including relatives, and nothing has come to light to suggest any underlying grievance. And we’ve checked Johnny’s medical history and there’s nothing to suggest he had any serious mental health issues.”

The actual sequence of events, such as gardaí have been able to establish, is likely to emerge at an inquest into the three deaths which will be held by the coroner for North Cork, Dr Michael Kennedy, at Mallow Courthouse on November 17th when over a half a dozen witnesses are expected to testify.

Gardaí have established that Johnny appeared to be his usual self when he spoke to a neighbour at about 1pm while cutting timber in the yard which is located some 200m from the single-storey family home where he lived alone following the death of another brother, Jerry, from suicide in 2014.

Investigators believe that Willie had travelled out to the farm from his home in St Fanahan's Court in Mitchelstown at about lunch time to cut timber for sale and they were later joined by Paddy who had travelled down from Tipperary town where lived with his partner, Kitty Russell.

However, Paddy’s daughter, Elaine became concerned when he failed to show up at her house in Linden Hill in Mitchelstown at about 9.30pm for dinner and she rang him on his mobile before trying her uncles, Willie and Johnny, on their phones but again without any success.

Head injuries

Ms Hennessy, accompanied by her mother and Paddy's ex-wife, Stephanie, drove out to the farm at Curraghgorm some 10km from the town where, at about 11.15pm, she discovered the badly beaten body of her father lying in front of his car in the timbering yard and she raised the alarm.

The gardaí arrived at the scene and initially thought that Paddy had been shot, so severe were his numerous head injuries. They requested the services of the Armed Support Unit before they discovered the body of Willie lying in a shed with a sledge axe beside him.

A search was launched for Johnny, who had left the farm in Willie's Toyota Corolla van. It was found early the next morning at the car park of St Joseph's Church in Killacluig some 4km away and his body was later recovered from the Funcheon near where his brother Jerry died.

Postmortems on all three revealed that Willie and Paddy died from severe trauma to the head, consistent with being hit with the sledge axe. Both showed signs of defensive wounds on the hands and gardaí believe from where the axe was found that Johnny killed Paddy first and then Willie.

Gardaí believe he took his own life late on February 25th, following the last confirmed sighting of him alive, driving in Willie’s van towards Killacluig, at about 10pm.

Gardaí prepared a file on the killings for the Director of Public Prosecution but a direction came back from the DPP that there be no prosecution, thereby allowing the inquest into all three deaths to proceed later this month in Mallow.

If you are affected by any issue in this article, please contact Pieta House on 1800-247247 or the Samaritans by telephoning 116123 (free), or emailing jo@samaritans.ie