Kerry murder-suicide: 'It's impossible to get your head around what could have happened'

Once again, a rural Irish community is reeling after a well-liked ordinary family is destroyed by violence that has left three people dead
Kerry murder-suicide: 'It's impossible to get your head around what could have happened'

Gardaí in Listowel have commenced a criminal investigation into a fatal firearms incident which occurred at a domestic residence near Lixnaw, North County Kerry.

As heavy rain fell over the townland of Kilfeighney in north Kerry last night, a numbed community sheltered itself behind closed doors.

A knock on a door of a house near where Mossie O’Sullivan is believed to have killed his long-term partner Eileen O’Sullivan and son Jamie leads to the slow opening of a window.

“There is nothing to say," says the homeowner, visibly shaken by what happened so close to her own doorstep.

Nearby, a white Garda SUV is parked across the driveway that sits between a broken stone gateway leading into the O’Sullivan’s 20 or so acre farm. Propped against one side of the gateway is a single bouquet of flowers — a poignant reminder of the terrible tragedy that occurred on Tuesday evening.

A farmstead like so many others

The farm looks like so many others dotted across Munster with its stone buildings and corrugated iron sheds, surrounding a split-level bungalow, faded yellow in colour.  Situated down a narrow and winding country lane, it is surrounded by farms on all sides.

Gardaí at the scene of the suspected double murder-suicide at Ballyreehan, Lixnaw, Co Kerry,  on Tuesday night. Picture: Domnick Walsh
Gardaí at the scene of the suspected double murder-suicide at Ballyreehan, Lixnaw, Co Kerry,  on Tuesday night. Picture: Domnick Walsh

While Eileen O’Sullivan grew up on the farm where she and her son were found dead on Tuesday night, it seems her partner Mossie left the townland 20km away where he was raised to come and live at the farm with her. Although they never married, it's understood they were together for more than 25 years and were regarded locally as being happy at the farm.

Neighbours are very pleasant in what is a very tight-knit farming community. But they were also understandably shocked and numbed by what had happened. Yesterday,  those prepared to stop and talk did so briefly. All were united in their praise for what they described as a polite, quiet, but friendly couple who were well-respected locally.

Eileen was last seen on Monday evening, and was, according to one neighbour, "her usual self".

“I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary,” the neighbour said.

Asked when the last time he saw Mr O’Sullivan, he paused: 

I’m not sure but I’ll tell you this — something must have been up, because he sold his sheep. He had at least 20 in a field near the house and I think he had others.

“It wasn’t as if he needed the money. I always considered him to be quite a wealthy man. He didn’t smoke, and I don’t think he even drank. 

"I know he used to enjoy a pint but I had heard he had stopped.” 

Another resident who lives in the area says they last saw Mossie O’Sullivan in nearby Abbeydorney, at a service station. He was, by all accounts, looking “haggard”, and that was either Saturday or Sunday. It’s not an image many who knew him would remember.

A mechanic by trade, he worked in PJ Stack’s garage in Lixnaw, and he also worked as a bus driver. He was a keen hurler — as was his son — and, in the 1970s, he played for Lixnaw GAA as a minor.

“He was always working and he loved cars,” said an acquaintance, who said he was also involved in vintage car rallies. As well as raising sheep, Mossie also kept bees and sold honey he made on the farm. 

A devoted partner and mother, Eileen appears to have worked as a care worker, while her son Jamie worked for local agricultural contractors. He had served an apprenticeship in the container crane company Liebherr.

Alarm raised by a neighbour

The bodies of Mossie, Eileen and Jamie were discovered by neighbour and family friend John Mahony at around 8.30pm on Tuesday night. Speaking to his local newspaper, The Kerryman, Mr Mahony said he had been approached by two neighbours who were concerned that they hadn’t seen Eileen around all day on Tuesday.

Added to that, the front door of the house had been left open “for several hours”.

At about 8.30pm, Mr Mahony jumped into his jeep and drove down to the house, and walked into the property to look for them.

“When I went into the house, I found them,” he said. “Both were in their beds. It’s a terrible thing for any neighbour to have to witness.” 

He left the house and called gardaí, who urged him not to go looking for Mossie O’Sullivan.

Garda Superintendent Paul Kennedy from Listowel Garda Station gave a press conference in Lixnaw, Co Kerry, as investigations continue into the deaths the three family members. Picture: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Garda Superintendent Paul Kennedy from Listowel Garda Station gave a press conference in Lixnaw, Co Kerry, as investigations continue into the deaths the three family members. Picture: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

“So, they came out and found him up the road in a neighbour’s field,” Mr Mahony recalled. “I was only talking to him Sunday night. You couldn’t see anything like this coming,” he said.

And that is a sentiment echoed on the lips of many others. One local resident described Mossie and Eileen as "a devoted couple".

“He adored her and he adored Jamie,” they said. “It is just impossible to get your head around what could have possibly happened.” 

Parish priest Fr Anthony O’Sullivan summed it up hours after he had been called to give the last rites at around 11.15pm on Tuesday night.

“I just can’t put into words what I saw and what I witnessed,” he said. “It is just so shocking.

You hear about this sort of thing, but you never expect it to happen on your own doorstep. To tell you the truth, I just can’t take it in. 

And asked about the impact on the community, he added: “There is a numbness and an unreality about all this, and utter disbelief that this has happened.”

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