Murder-suicides are relatively rare but can be as difficult to predict as suicides, meaning intervention is difficult.
Experts said the impact of murder suicides on a community can be devastating, while a report published last year outlines how most cases involve members of the same family.
Research conducted by Institute of Technology Sligo student Ciara Byrne for a BSc in forensic analysis and investigation showed that murder suicides had resulted in the deaths of 46 people in the past 12 years.
In total, there were 19 incidents from 2001 to 2013, which claimed the lives of 27 innocent victims.
Just one of the cases took place in Dublin, while 18 took place in rural Ireland. Ms Byrne said that, in many cases, the victims were very young.
In a HSE guidance document published in April 2011, murder suicides were described as “relatively rare events”.
“In the last few years, the phenomena of suicide clusters and murder suicides have become more prominent in Irish society. Whilst numbers involved are small, the impact can be devastating on family networks and communities,” it stated.
“It is rare that a murder-suicide victim is unknown or unrelated in some way to the perpetrator.”
John Connolly, a consultant psychiatrist who served on Pieta House’s board since its inception and is also a member of the Irish Association of Suicidology, said murder-suicides were rare but no less shocking.
“A doctor might meet a completed suicide every four years,” said Dr Connolly. “Some none, some quite a number, and if you are meeting something that rare it is very difficult to prepare for it.”
He said every suicide was “an unnecessary death” and that in the scenario of murder suicides, intervention can be difficult as in some cases there can be no indication of any problems.
Consultant psychiatrist Siobhán Barry said that the response of communities affected by such tragedies was typically one of “absolute horror”.
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