Gardaí probe land ownership as motive for brutal north Cork killings

Autopsies are due to take place on the bodies of all three brothers at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on Saturday
Gardaí probe land ownership as motive for brutal north Cork killings

Willie Hennessey pictured with his local GAA club Ballygiblin in 1979; Paddy (Pat) Hennessey pictured with his local GAA club Ballygiblin in 1984. Pictures: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Gardaí investigating the murder of two brothers on the family farm in north Cork and the apparent drowning of a third are set to probe land ownership and farm income issues as possible motives for the brutal killings.

They are among several lines of inquiry that are being pursued following the violent deaths of Willie Hennessy, 66, and his brother, Patrick, 60, at the family farm at Curraghgorm, near Kildorrery on the Mitchelstown to Mallow road, which emerged in the early hours of today.

Gardaí believe both men died in an axe attack.

Willie was a single man who lived in Mitchelstown but who spent much of his time at the farm. 

Patrick, a separated father of two who had an address nearby, also spent a lot of time on the farm.

Gardaí at the scene near Killacluig church, North Cork this morning on Friday morning. Picture Larry Cummins

Gardaí at the scene near Killacluig church, North Cork this morning on Friday morning. Picture Larry Cummins

The body of their brother, Johnny, 59, also a single man who lived on the farm, was found dead a few kilometres away in the river Funshion several hours later.

It’s believed he died by drowning.

A fourth brother, Jer, died in tragic circumstances in January 2014. 

The brothers are survived by a sister.

Autopsies are due to take place on the bodies of all three brothers at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on Saturday to establish the exact causes of death.

The results of the autopsies, combined with the results of forensic examinations at the farmhouse, will determine the course of the garda investigation.

Gardaí are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.

Gardaí will also seek to establish whether any medical or mental health issues were at play, which may have combined to trigger the tragic sequence of events.

The alarm was raised at about 12.30am when the daughter of one of the brothers made a distressed call to gardaí to say that her father, who had called to the farm earlier, had been killed at the farm.

Amid concerns that people at the farm may have had access to firearms, gardaí approached it as a potential ‘hostage barricade suicide’ incident and a major operation was launched.

Gardaí close to the crime scene where the two Hennessy brothers' bodies were found on the farm at Curraghgorm, Mitchelstown in North Cork. A third brother was found dead at a separate scene close to Killacluig Church. Picture: Larry Cummins

Gardaí close to the crime scene where the two Hennessy brothers' bodies were found on the farm at Curraghgorm, Mitchelstown in North Cork. A third brother was found dead at a separate scene close to Killacluig Church. Picture: Larry Cummins

ASU members searched the property and found the body of Paddy Hennessy in a yard near the farmhouse. 

He had sustained serious head and facial injuries.

They found Willie’s body in a shed near the farmyard a short time later. He had suffered similar injuries.

When gardaí were satisfied that the third brother was not on the property, and that a vehicle believed to be registered to Johnny was missing, a massive search operation was launched, with roadblocks put in place. 

The garda air support unit and the garda dog unit were called in, and gardaí began searching land in the area in a bid to trace the missing brother.

Following a public appeal around 7.30am for help tracing a red Toyota Corolla van, it was spotted by a member of the public abandoned at a farmhouse, unconnected to the incident, close to St Joseph’s Church at Killacluig, a few miles east of the Hennessy farm. 

Gardaí have confirmed that the body of a man has been found in a river in a remote location nearby which they are working to formally identify. Picture: Larry Cummins

Gardaí have confirmed that the body of a man has been found in a river in a remote location nearby which they are working to formally identify. Picture: Larry Cummins

The river Funshion flows a few hundred yards south of the church.

Gardaí focused their search in this area and along the riverbank.

Garda search dogs discovered items of interest and an area of recently disturbed ground on the riverbank and the garda helicopter crew was alerted.

Its crew located a body about 1km downstream around noon. It was recovered by members of the garda underwater unit.

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