Locals struggle to make sense of double tragedy

A rural community in Co Sligo rallied around a couple yesterday who returned to their home from a Sunday afternoon outing to find that two of their sons were dead.

Nine-year-old Brandon Skeffington was found with fatal stab wounds inside the family home near the village of Banada, while the body of his older brother Shane, aged 20, was discovered by their father in a shed at the back of the house.

The brothers are survived by their parents Shane and Carmel, and by their 15-year-old sister and a three-year-old brother.

Desperate attempts were made at the scene to revive Brandon who was removed by air ambulance to Sligo Regional hospital where he was pronounce dead a short time later.

Gardaí investigating the deaths have revealed that they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the double tragedy.

Local parish priest Fr John Glynn said it was the worst thing that could happen to any family, echoing the sentiments of many local people who struggled to explain the awful events to their own children.

Autopsies were carried out by Michael Curtis at Sligo Regional Hospital yesterday, but gardaí believe that Brandon was stabbed by his older brother, who then took his own life.

Fr Glynn said people were struggling “not even for words at this stage, but to try and make sense of this”.

Brandon was a third-class pupil in the local primary school and was fondly remembered by neighbours as a happy go lucky little boy.

“He was very lively,” said Fr Glynn.

“I know his parents through the school as well. This is a very hard one but we have a good community and we will rally around them.”

The focus of the Garda investigation is the large two-storey house outside the village of Banada which Shane Skeffington built for his family on a quiet rural road. They moved from Tubbercurry about eight years ago, according to local people, who described them as quiet and hard- working.

Yesterday, their home was sealed off as the Garda technical team carried out an investigation.

A trampoline and swings were deserted. Two ponies grazed in front of the family home, while a clothes line of washing emphasised how the routine of normal, family life had been so brutally interrupted.

Fianna Fáil councillor Jerry Lundy said that local people were devastated for the Skeffingtons, who had been visited by this heartbreak at a time when most families were enjoying the summer holidays.

“I feel desperately sorry for the family especially the mother and father who are very well known and very well liked,” said Mr Lundy.

He said Mr Skeffington was a hard-working block layer who was very well respected in the building trade.

“People were shocked and saddened when they woke up to this news this morning,” he said.

“Our thoughts are with the two children — I think of them both as children — and especially with their families.”

Brendan Leonard, chairman of Tourlestrane football club, expressed sympathy to the family who he said had always been supportive of community events.

He said Brandon and Shane’s sister had played until recently with Tourlestrane, while their mother was a regular at bingo sessions held to raise funds for the club and other local charities.

He said: “The extended Skeffington family from Tubbercurry have always been very supportive.”

He said people were devastated for the couple. “They are hard workers and very well-liked.”

Banada is a quiet, rural townland best known as the location of Banada Abbey and convent, originally the site of a Norman castle and later a convent industrial school and post primary school.

Nobel laureate John Hume opened a peace garden in the village in 1997.

“We were all shocked this morning as we went to work and hard about this. It is very sad for the family,” local man John Colleran said.

Another local man, Jerry Meehan, said locals were very shocked.

“We are not used to such tragedy,” he said.


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