Two of three post-mortem examinations completed after suspected Cork ‘murder-suicide’

Diarmuid O'Sullivan, 23, his brother Mark, 25, and their father, Tadgh, 59, died during the incident at a rural farmland, between Castlemagner and Kanturk yesterday.
Two of three post-mortem examinations completed after suspected Cork ‘murder-suicide’

Tadgh, Mark and Diarmuid O’Sullivan who died in a shooting in a remote part of Kanturk in North Cork. Picture: Gardaí

Two of three post-mortem examinations have been completed on the bodies of a father and his two sons who died in what is being treated as a suspected murder-suicide.

The third post mortem examination is scheduled to take place tomorrow at 11am.

Diarmuid O'Sullivan, 23, his brother Mark, 25, and their father, Tadgh, 59, died during the incident at a rural farm, between Castlemagner and Kanturk yesterday.

The bodies of the three men were taken to Cork University Hospital on Monday evening after the state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster attended the scene.

A technical examination of the house and the adjoining land is ongoing.

The tragedy unfolded shortly after 6.30am when a family dispute, understood to be over the inheritance of farmland, spiralled out of control.

During the heated disagreement, one of the brothers armed himself with a firearm and fatally wounded his sibling.

When their father, Tadgh O'Sullivan, attempted to intervene, further shots were fired.

The body of Mark O'Sullivan was found in a bedroom of the house shortly after 1pm by the Garda Emergency Response Unit. 

 The remains of the O’Sullivan family Diarmuid, Mark and their father Tadgh who were killed in a shooting incident near Kanturk are brought to the mortuary at the Cork University Hospital last night by three hearses. Picture: Dan Linehan
The remains of the O’Sullivan family Diarmuid, Mark and their father Tadgh who were killed in a shooting incident near Kanturk are brought to the mortuary at the Cork University Hospital last night by three hearses. Picture: Dan Linehan

His brother and father were found dead in a field nearby a short time later. Gardaí say all suffered gunshot wounds.

The wife and mother of the deceased men, Anne O'Sullivan, a woman in her 60s, had alerted neighbours that firearms had been discharged at her home at around 6.30am.

Gardaí from Kanturk rushed to the scene and were informed that further gunshots had been heard from the farmhouse, at Assolas, Kanturk. 

A cordon was erected around the farmland and a garda critical incident response was established. The Garda Emergency Response Unit, Armed Support Unit, National Negotiator Unit, Technical Support Unit, Southern Region Dog Unit and Air Support Unit were all deployed. 

 Superintendent Adrian Gamble speaking at the Garda press conference outside Kanturk Garda Station, North Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Superintendent Adrian Gamble speaking at the Garda press conference outside Kanturk Garda Station, North Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Additional support was provided by the HSE National Ambulance Service.

Garda negotiators attempted to make contact with anyone still inside the property to establish if there was an ongoing hostage situation.

They were aware that legally held firearms were in the home.

When no response was forthcoming, the Emergency Response Unit approached the house and the body of Mark was discovered in a bedroom.

He had suffered a fatal gunshot wound.

Nobody else was present in the house and the Garda Air Support Unit helicopter started an aerial search of the adjoining lands to find the missing men.

Gardaí at the scene of the fatal shooting at Assolas, near Kanturk, north Cork. Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
Gardaí at the scene of the fatal shooting at Assolas, near Kanturk, north Cork. Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Their bodies were found beside an old fort on nearby farmland less than 40 minutes later. 

Gardaí have denied earlier reports that they were called to the farm to resolve a previous incident.

The mother, Anne, had just returned to the house on Sunday evening after a period away from the home.

She was being comforted last night by relatives and friends.

Supt Adrian Gamble confirmed a number of firearms were seized at the scene and will be subject to technical examination.

It's understood that two rifles and a shotgun were found. 

Gardaí pictured at the scene of the fatal shooting at Assolas, near Kanturk, north Cork. Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
Gardaí pictured at the scene of the fatal shooting at Assolas, near Kanturk, north Cork. Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

The deaths have left the rural community reeling, with neighbours and public representatives describing it as 'shocking'. 

Paul Gallagher, Castlemagner GAA press officer, said: "People are still trying to come to terms with what happened.

"Grief is difficult to deal with at the best of times but when you add the circumstances of a tragedy of this magnitude the grief just gets multiplied by 10 fold.

"Also the whole Covid-19 scenario further complicates matters because normally when you have a tragedy or a bereavement the community rallies around.

"You would call around and do your bit but this whole Covid-19 thing has scuppered all of that.

"People have to be very mindful of that."

They added: "That said, we will do whatever we can do within the guidelines to ensure that we do a bit for the family."

He said Mark and Diarmuid were involved in the GAA way back when they were at Ballyhass National School.

They would have played with Croke Rovers, which is an amalgamation of teams from Castlemagner and Kilbrin.

Kanturk curate Fr John Magner attended at the scene where he blessed the bodies and later offered comfort to Ms O’Sullivan at the home of relatives.

“I spent some talking to her, offering comfort. I prayed over her, to have the strength to cope with his enormous loss,” Fr Magner told RTÉ radio’s News at One.

It had been difficult for him to find the words to say to her, he said. “I didn’t know what to say. I did the best I could chatting with her and prayed over her.” Fr Magner said that normally it would be one person he was called to pray for, it was the first time he had ever had to pray for three people. “It was a very sad scene.” It had been difficult to communicate through masks, he said.

 The remains of the O’Sullivan family Diarmuid, Mark and their father Tadgh who were killed after a shooting incident near Kanturk are brought to the mortuary at the Cork University Hospital last night. Picture: Dan Linehan
The remains of the O’Sullivan family Diarmuid, Mark and their father Tadgh who were killed after a shooting incident near Kanturk are brought to the mortuary at the Cork University Hospital last night. Picture: Dan Linehan

The people of Castlemagner were numbed, stunned and devastated by what had happened, he added. He was certain they would support one another, they would stand together.

It would also be difficult for younger people to understand that someone their age had departed this world so early. “This will be very tough on young people to understand.”

Local Fianna Fáil councillor Bernard Moynihan said: “They are a lovely family and everybody is deeply shocked and saddened by what has happened.”

The family has been described as respected members of the Castlemagner community.

The brothers were university graduates and neighbours described them as polite and friendly.

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) confirmed that Diarmuid O’Sullivan was a recent student who concluded his studies in June 2020 and was due to be conferred next week with a First Class Honours degree in Accounting. 

Speaking this morning, Dr Dan Collins, Head of Student Affairs, noted that the entire CIT Community were in shock as news of the tragic deaths unfolded yesterday. 

He said: “There are no words anyone can say to express how people are feeling. This tragedy is heartbreaking, and we extend our thoughts and sympathy to his mother, Anne. 

"We also keep in our thoughts, and prayers, his brother Mark and his father Tadgh. We are mindful at this time of his friends, classmates, and staff of the Department of Accounting and Information Systems, as well as the extended family and neighbours.” 

Dr Collins indicated that staff described Diarmuid as a young man with promise, who was a hard worker, respected, and held in high regard by staff and students alike.

Gardaí are appealing to anyone with information to contact Mallow Garda Station 022 31450, the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any garda station.

Timeline of events

6.15am: At least one shot is fired at the farmhouse and Anne O’Sullivan manages to get out to raise the alarm.

6.30am: The alarm was raised that firearms had been used in the family home at Assolas, between Kanturk and Castlemagner. Gardaí were told one of three men in the house may have suffered gunshot wounds.

6.40am: Mrs O’Sullivan, who is still recovering from surgery and doesn’t have a phone with her, reaches a neighbour’s house and gardaí are called.

7am: A local unit of uniformed gardaí arrived at the scene. Two more shots were then heard in the area.

8.30am: A media blackout on the incident was requested by gardaí who initiated the Critical Firearms incident response.

Throughout the morning, Garda negotiators tried to make contact with occupants of the house.

1pm: Members of the Emergency Response Unit entered the house and found the body of one brother in a bedroom. No other persons were present in the house.

1.40pm: The father and second brother were found dead in a nearby field. They both had suffered gunshot wounds.

3.30pm: The media blackout was lifted and gardaí said they were not looking for anybody else as part of their investigation.

5pm: At a media briefing, Supt Adrian Gamble confirmed a number of firearms were seized at the scene and they would be forensically examined.

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