Kanturk killings inquest: 'Hold on, I’m going to get you help' mother told dying son

A jury has said that 25-year-old Mark O'Sullivan's death was unlawful and that his brother Diarmuid and father Tadg both took their own lives
Kanturk killings inquest: 'Hold on, I’m going to get you help' mother told dying son

Tadg, Mark and Diarmuid O’Sullivan who died in the shooting in Kanturk, North Cork. Photo: Gardaí

“Hold on, I’m going to get you help” was the last thing Anne O’Sullivan said to her son Mark as he lay dying on the floor of his bedroom last October.

This is according to one of a number of statements she gave to gardaí after her husband Tadg and younger son Diarmuid repeatedly shot Mark before taking their own lives.

The statements were read out at the inquest this morning into all three deaths at the farm in Raheen, near Kanturk, north Cork.

The 25-year-old was asleep in his bedroom when he was shot dead by 59-year-old Tadg and 23-year-old Diarmuid early on October 26 last year.

Tadg and Diarmuid were later found dead near an old fort close to the farmhouse, about 500 metres away.

The tragedy would haunt 61-year-old Anne to the day she died in April following a long battle with cancer.

Tensions

Mallow Coroner’s Court heard that in the months before the shootings tensions were high in the house over which of the sons would inherit what part of Anne’s 150-acre farm.

The tensions arose after she found out in February 2020 that cancer she had fought had not only returned but was now terminal, and she hadn’t long to live.

She told gardaí Tadg grew increasingly agitated after that diagnosis, and kept insisting she draw up a will.

The jury heard matters degenerated to such an extent that Diarmuid started threatening to take his own life if he didn’t get “the lion’s share” of Anne’s farm, which had remained in her name after she inherited it from her mother.

There was also an incident in which Diarmuid is said to have warned he would leave “a trail of destruction and no light would shine in Raheen again” if Anne did not change her will.

She did eventually draw up a will and during a phase when she was either staying in Dublin or with relatives nearby, there was an exchange of solicitors' letters.

“Holy God what have you done now”

The jury was told of a number of incidents - including one in which Tadg and Diarmuid confronted Anne’s eldest son - that culminated with Tadg and Diarmuid firing a total of eight shots at him, seven of which hit him in the head and chest.

He also sustained a gunshot to one of his arms after he stumbled out of bed and tried to defend himself.

“Holy God what have you done now,” Anne shouted at Tadg and Diarmuid as they stood at the doorway of Mark’s bedroom.

They were both holding rifles and had just fired a string of shots at Mark.

As she moved past them as they stood there and went through the doorway of the room and looked in, she saw him dying on the ground.

And before she left, and eventually fled the farmhouse near Kanturk, north Cork, she turned back to Mark as he lay dying on the floor, and told him: “Hold on, I’m going to get help.” According to assistant State Pathologist Margaret Bolster, Mark had been found lying on the floor of his bedroom.

He had received gunshots to his head, chest and arm.

A wound to his arm was, in her view, a defensive wound as he would have lifted his arm would have been “raised in defence”.

She found that Tadg had died from a single gunshot.

 Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster arrives at court. She told the inquest that Mark O'Sullivan had received gunshots to his head, chest and arm. Photo: Larry Cummins
Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster arrives at court. She told the inquest that Mark O'Sullivan had received gunshots to his head, chest and arm. Photo: Larry Cummins

Toxicology results showed that neither drink or drugs played any part in his death.

Dr Bolster made the same finding about Diarmuid, whose body was found nearby.

Anne made a series of statements between November 3 and November 7.

In them she spoke of growing tensions in the farmhouse where they lived since the day she had received a diagnosis of terminal cancer in February 2020.

On the night before the shootings, she recalled: “I felt there was tension.” She went to bed at around 8pm, and only woke a short while later as she heard the TV on in the nearby sitting room.

Diarmuid was asleep on the sofa and she turned the TV off and went back to bed.

She next woke at around 6am as there was movement in the house but must have dozed off.

A short while later, however, she heard a noise she said she couldn't describe, telling the gardaí later she “didn’t realise it was gunshots”.

 The courthouse at Mallow, Co Cork, where the inquest is being held this morning. Photo: Larry Cummins
The courthouse at Mallow, Co Cork, where the inquest is being held this morning. Photo: Larry Cummins

She jumped out of bed and went towards her son Mark’s room.

There she said she saw her husband Tadg and Diarmuid standing in the doorway, armed with rifles and looking in.

One of the men looked at her approaching, looked back into the room and fired another shot into it.

They then turned to her and said: “There’s your solicitor’s letter for you.” The jury is currently deliberating their verdict.

They have been told by Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy that the evidence points to Mark having been unlawfully killed and Tadg and Diarmuid having taken their own lives.

The jury has recommended that there be "protocols" be put in place when dealing with calls from third parties where there is a potential danger to people's lives.

They said they found Mark's death was unlawful and that both Diarmuid and Tadg took their own lives.

Dr Kennedy said the case was "beyond human comprehension" and followed a "devastating series of events".

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