An inquest opens today into the murder-suicide deaths of a father and his two sons that shook the North Cork community of Kanturk.
Witnesses, gardaí and local people with knowledge of the events will give evidence at the inquest, which had originally been scheduled to take place on July 7 but was postponed by the coroner.
Mark O’Sullivan (25) was asleep in his bedroom when he was shot dead by his father, Tadg (59), and younger brother, Diarmuid (23), early on October 26 last year. Tadg and Diarmuid were later found dead near an old fort close to the farmhouse.
The tragedy would haunt the mother of Mark and Diarmuid, Anne O’Sullivan, to the day she died. It's believed there had been tensions in the family over her will in the months before the shooting.
Having received a terminal diagnosis in March 2020, Anne had sought legal advice on how to draw up her will. It is believed she wanted Mark to ultimately inherit the farmhouse in Assolas, Castlemagner, near Kanturk, and over 115 acres of agricultural land.
On the night before the murder-suicide, a relative texted Anne and asked how things were in the farmhouse. She is said to have replied: “All quiet”.
As shots rang out early the next morning, Anne jumped out of bed and bolted downstairs without stopping to put on any slippers or even a cardigan over her nightdress. Tadg and Diarmuid had shot her oldest son, Mark.
It is reported that he was hit by up to seven bullets, and most of them appear to have been fired with a legally-held semi-automatic rifle. The rest were fired with another legally-held firearm, a bolt action rifle.
Exactly who fired which weapon at Mark was not immediately clear as gardaí found DNA traces from both men on both guns.
Getting to the bottom of the stairs, a horrified Anne turned and fled for the farmhouse door, clutching her mobile phone. Both men caught up with her in the farmyard and confronted her as she stood facing them.
Her phone is then said to have been ripped out of her hand and thrown to the ground before Diarmuid smashed it with what is believed to have been a sledgehammer.
Anne was forced to stumble through fields to get to a cousin’s house because the gates to the farmhouse driveway were locked shut with new padlocks.
Although her cousins lived about 800 metres away the journey on foot took her about 30 minutes because she was still in agony from the series of operations she had undergone in Dublin.
A traumatised and exhausted Anne managed to raise the alarm and by around 6.30am, Kanturk gardaí were called. As other units started to assemble and more officers arrived, neighbours reported hearing shots fired after 7am.
Just before 9am, a trained negotiator arrived and made a number of attempts to contact anybody in the farmhouse, not knowing there was nobody alive inside.
Among other units scrambled to the scene were specialist HSE paramedics who were flown to nearby GAA grounds by an Irish Coast Guard helicopter.
By 1pm, the decision had been taken to try and enter the farmhouse and it was then that they discovered Mark’s body in the ground floor bedroom.
There was no sign of the father and son and, at one point, gardaí are said to have feared they had gone on the run.
The Garda Air Support Unit helicopter carried out a series of aerial sweeps of adjoining lands. By about 1.40pm, the pilot spotted two bodies near an old fairy fort in adjoining lands.
Tadg and Diarmuid O’Sullivan were pronounced dead at the scene. Two rifles were found beside them in the fields.
A 12-page letter to his mother which detailed how angry he was over her decision to favour Mark in her will was found strapped to Diarmuid’s leg.