A man murdered by his father and brother in a farm inheritance dispute told a friend two weeks before his death that he feared they would kill him and make it look like suicide.
An inquest on Wednesday heard that Mark O'Sullivan, from Raheen, Kanturk, Co Cork, messaged his friend Claragh Lucey from Midleton on October 10th 2020 that he feared for his life. He said he thought that his father, Tadg (59), and brother, Diarmuid (23), would kill him and try to make it look as though it was a suicide.
Just over two weeks later, on October 26th, Tadg and Diarmuid O’Sullivan shot the 26-year-old law graduate dead in his bedroom at the family home. They also taunted his mother, Anne, over her plans to divide the 115-acre family farm between her two sons before they went and shot themselves in a field on the farm .
Details of Mark O’Sullivan’s fears for his own life and that of his mother, amid growing tensions over who would inherit the family farm, emerged at the hearing into the three killings at Mallow Courthouse.
Coroner for north Cork Dr Michael Kennedy read into evidence an unsigned letter found at the family home after the murder-suicide event. Garda forensic experts were satisfied that it was written by Mark O'Sullivan.
“I no longer feel safe at home. My own safety and my mother’s is in danger. Raheen has always been my home and it causes me great distress that it is no longer a safe haven,” he wrote. In the letter he detailed how tensions had risen after his mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February 2020.
He said he was coming under unbearable stress from his father and his brother. He said his brother believed he was entitled to the greater part of the farm and warned that if he didn’t get his way, he would leave a trail of destruction and there “would be no lights on in Raheen ever again”.
A relative of Ms O'Sullivan's, Louise Sherlock, told the inquest she had gone to Kanturk Garda station less than a fortnight before the deaths. She said gardaí had advised her that Anne and Mark O'Sullivan could contact a solicitor with a view to obtaining barring or protection orders.
The jury returned verdicts of unlawful killing in the case of Mark and suicide in the cases of Tadg and Diarmuid. It recommended gardaí review protocols governing third parties making reports in cases where there is danger to life.
Dr Kennedy described the sequence of events as “a terrible tragedy that was beyond comprehension” and noted he usually extended his condolences to the immediate family but there was no one left alive following Anne’s death from cancer in April.