Poison suspected in deaths of Limerick couple; bodies discovered by burglars

By Jimmy Woulfe, Irish Examiner Mid-West correspondent

Gardaí investigating the deaths of Thomas Ruttle and his partner, Julia Holmes at the Ruttle family home in Co Limerick now suspect the couple may have taken a poisoned liquid in a double suicide pact.

It was originally believed that the deaths were the result of a murder/suicide shooting.

The State Pathologist Marie Cassidy has attended the scene in the house near Askeaton, Co Limerick, where the bodies of two people were discovered. Report by Jimmy Wolfe Video by Dan Linehan

A forensic scientist has been called in to assist the team of technical bureau detectives who have been at the scene at Boolaglass, on the Rathkeale/Askeatoon road for the past two days.

The investigation is being led by Supt Tom O'Connor, Newcastle West and Det Inspector Eamon O'Neill, Henry Street.

Mr Ruttle's licensed .22 rifle was found near the bodies but indications are that it may not have been fired and no spent shells were found at the scene.

The rifle has been sent to the garda ballistics laboratory in Dublin for forensic examination.

The post mortem by State Pathologist, Dr Marie Cassidy found no obvious signs of gunshot wounds or other violent marks on the badly decomposed bodies.

The investigation has now focussed on containers with small amounts of a liquid substance found near the upstairs bed on which the bodies lay.

It is believed that toxicology tests to ascertain whether the couple had taken a poisonous substance could take up to three weeks to conclude.

Thomas Ruttle and Julia Holmes

The investigation has been further complicated by the fact that the three people who found the bodies during a break-in 'contaminated' the scene. They will have to undergo forensic examinations to rule them out of the investigation.

The men involved in the break-in, who are from West Limerick, contacted the gardaí about the bodies, fearing they could be implicated in the deaths.

They have since come forward voluntarily and have been interviewed by detectives.

It is believed that what is described as "considerable correspondence" was found in the writing of both Ms Holmes and Mr Ruttle in the kitchen of the house and this has been sent to Dublin for forensic analysis.

Mr Ruttle, 56 and Ms Holmes, 63, are believed to have been dead for up to two months.

It is not yet known when the funerals will take place and whether the couple will be buried together in the Ruttle family grave.

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