Community left reeling after week of questions

ONE week before the Flood family were lowered into their graves, they were swimming together at a hotel pool outside Wexford town.

Diarmuid and his wife Lorraine had taken their two children, Mark and Julie, to the Ferrycarrig Hotel.

Later they returned home to the house Diarmuid inherited from his grandparents in Clonroche village and closed the door behind them. It was the last time they were seen alive.

One casual phone call was made from the house that evening but gardaí said this gave no indication of what was about to happen.

The next time any member of the family was seen was at 5.30am on Saturday when neighbour John Kehoe smashed the upstairs window and unsuccessfully tried to get Lorraine from the burning building.

Despite the efforts of the Wexford County Fire Service, two big clans in the heartland of Wexford woke up to learn a father, mother, son and daughter had died in a massive house fire.

Tributes were immediately paid to family and sympathies passed on to the parents, Jim and Kathleen Kehoe and Seán and Kathleen Flood.

But at lunchtime, South East Radio stunned the families and the wider community with news that the fire had been started deliberately and both parents had been shot dead.

It soon emerged 41-year-old Diarmuid died in a chair downstairs and he had shot himself.

Lorraine, aged 38, was shot in the chest and died in the bed upstairs.

The tragedy instantly threw the community back to April 2007 when another man from the parish, Adrian Dunne, smothered his children and his wife before killing himself in a planned murder-suicide in nearby Monageer.

The second tragedy in 53 weeks floored the village of 550 people.

Rumours quickly circulated but there was little to back up any of them beyond people desperately trying to apply reason to a despicable and irrational act.

All week, gardaí remained adamant they could not identify a single clear-cut motive that drove Diarmuid to do it.

As the wider public looked for answers the surviving relatives searched for solace.

Less than 48 hours after the Floods had died, their extended families gathered in Lorraine’s parents’ home for mass which was celebrated by Fr Richard Redmond.

At the same time gardaí discovered what was thought to be high levels of asbestos and suspended the investigation.

The families’ spokesman and chairman of Wexford County Council, Cllr Denis Kennedy, issued an appeal for privacy on behalf of both the Kehoes and the Floods.

Meanwhile, the forensic team returned to the house as Mark and Julie’s former classmates walked by on their way to school.

All weekend their teachers had intensive meetings and brought in specialist counsellors.

After meeting the counsellors, pupils were brought for a remembrance service in the school hall. In one of the week’s most poignant moments, junior and senior infant classmates of the Flood children joined others to read prayers and tell stories about their two dead friends.

On Monday night, the media were summoned to a press conference at Enniscorthy Garda Station.

Just a short time earlier, before mass in Diarmuid’s parents, the families’ Garda liaison officer had told them what Superintendent Kevin Donohoe was about to tell the press.

Both six-year-old Mark and five-year-old Julie Flood were dead in their beds before the fire broke out and blood tests had to taken to find out if they were drugged or suffocated.

He also confirmed both parents had died from single gunshot wounds — Diarmuid’s was self-inflicted, Lorraine’s was not.

Supt Donohoe used the opportunity to quash many of the rumours about how the killings took place and Diarmuid’s possible motives.

Later in the week, detectives interviewed the local doctor to see if a history of depression was to blame, and this has still to be determined.

The main road reopened on Tuesday morning and the village tried portray a semblance of normality.

Parish priest Fr Richard Hayes cut short a holiday to return home and the families anxiously waited for the north Wexford coroner to release the bodies.

This happened on Tuesday night and the next day two hearses collected the bodies in the Dublin city morgue and brought them home.

By Thursday, the Wexford local papers hit the shelves.

One week previous, Diarmuid’s mother Kathleen was mentioned briefly in these papers.

She had been quite ill recently and the Clonroche Irish Country Women’s Association used the parish notices to wish her a speedy recovery.

This week the suffering of Mrs Flood received blanket coverage and was analysed in forensic detail, as was the plight of other relatives.

The community rallied to their aid to protect them from media intrusion and prevent unnecessary anguish.

And as the families gathered yesterday for the funeral mass, they issued a special message of thanks for the support of their neighbours and friends.

Outside the wider community stood in the sunshine and repeated the inevitable question — why?

Because, while local people spoke of the Flood family as being well liked, it appeared few thought of them as close friends.

The Floods were professional, hard workers, well dressed and from respected families.

Their neighbours said they were devoted to each other even if it kept them at a distance.

Lorraine was more active in the community. She ran yoga classes from the community hall, was PRO for the parents’ association at her children’s school and sang in the church choir.

Diarmuid walked his children to school every morning and worked from the yard of his family home.

He had worked with his father Seán but was ambitious and branched off with his own water pumps and drilling business early in his career.

He was not involved in the focal points for men in the parish such as Cloughbawn GAA club, the village development association or the vintage farm machinery festival — cancelled this week as a mark of respect.

The flowers left outside the gutted family home remembered best friends but these were in honour of six-year-old Mark and five-year-old Julie, not their parents.

It is known Diarmuid Flood had made plans for the family.

The Floods were supposed to holiday in Italy later in the year and Diarmuid had ordered the delivery of building supplies.

However, he also sourced shotgun cartridges for a gun he had in his house for many years but had not fired.

So, as rumours abounded there seemed to be few who were close enough to know what made Diarmuid tick and what had caused him to explode in such a devastating fashion seven days ago.

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