A 74-year-old painter bludgeoned his wife to death with a two-foot metal bar and inflicted a serious head injury on his son before causing his own death by drinking weed-killer, an inquest has heard.
The bodies of Tom and Kitty Fitzgerald (aged 72) were discovered at their home in Knockadoon, Irishtown, Claremorris, Co Mayo on November 1, 2016 by Aoife O’Gorman, the girlfriend of their adopted son, Paul Fitzgerald (aged 38), who was struck on the head with the same metal bar that was used to kill his mother.
Paul told an inquest at Mayo Coroners Court that he had no recollection of the events. He was tasered by a member of the Garda Armed Response Unit when he was encountered in a confused state on the day of his parents’ deaths.
A jury returned a verdict of homicide in the case of Kitty Fitzgerald, while a verdict of self-inflicted homicide was recorded in the case of Tom Fitzgerald.
John Hoade, a forensic scientist who attended the scene, told the inquest that he had observed the body of 5’2” Kitty Fitzgerald lying face down on the hallway floor wearing blood-soaked pyjamas in the rural bungalow in Co Mayo.
There was a large pool of blood around her head, indicating that she had bled heavily while she lay there, Mr Hoade said.
There was blood impact spatter on walls and floor in the area, suggesting that she had been struck on the head while she was lying on the floor.
Her blood was also found in the main bedroom on the bed and the bedside locker, where a knife was also recovered.
The forensic scientist said that the blood patterns throughout the house indicated that Kitty had been initially assaulted in the bedroom, and then made her way up to the hallway, where she was fatally struck by the metal piece of scaffolding.
Blood patterns elsewhere in the house and outside indicated that Paul had been attacked in the yard and had collapsed on the ground of a green shed near the house.
He subsequently made his way into the house through the back door and lay in a single bed in a small bedroom, where he bled heavily.
The body of Tom Fitzgerald was found slumped in a water trough with his head submerged. He had three superficial lacerations on his neck and was holding the cap of a bottle of weed-killer, which was located nearby.
A Stanley knife was found at the bottom of the water trough, along with his dentures.
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis told the inquest that Kitty Fitzgerald had sustained injuries consistent with blunt-force trauma to the head.
She had a large laceration at the top of her skull, and two wounds at the side her head, which had caused skull fractures.
He concluded that she had been struck at least three times.
She had also sustained a laceration to her forehead, which may have been caused when she fell to the ground in the hallway.
He said that her brain had been severely bruised in the course of the attack. He concluded that her death had been caused by blunt-force trauma to the head.
Tom Fitzgerald, who was 6’3” and of muscular build, according to the pathologist, had sustained three self-inflicted parallel lacerations on his neck.
These were the source of some bleeding but had not proved fatal.
Dr Curtis concluded that his death had been caused by ingesting corrosive fluid, which had caused pharyngeal and oesophageal necrosis.
This would have rapidly caused death, and no significant quantity of water had been found in his lungs. Toxicology reports showed no trace of alcohol or drugs.
Paul Fitzgerald told the inquest that his parents' relationship had been "strong" but noted that his father had a history of depression.
He had injured his knee shortly before the incident and had been unable to work.
A local priest described the couple as "saintly" in the wake of the tragedy and said that they were both religious.
Tom was a Eucharistic minister, while Kitty was a sacristan and a member of the church choir.
Coroner Patrick O'Connor offered his sympathies to the Fitzgerald family.