Husband killed wife then drove head-on into traffic on M1

Gardai at the couple's home near Rathmore, Hackballscross, County Louth
Gardai at the couple's home near Rathmore, Hackballscross, County Louth

A father-of-four killed his wife in an upstairs bedroom before ploughing into two other vehicles while driving the wrong way on a motorway, gardaí believe.

A sleepy townland was stunned by the apparent murder-suicide that claimed the lives of Marie Quigley and her husband James.

Mrs Quigley's body was discovered by a family member yesterday afternoon in an upstairs bedroom at the couple's home near Rathmore, Hackballscross, Co Louth.

Gardaí realised that a car registered to that address was involved in a serious collision on the M1 some 15 miles away.

They confirmed that Mr Quigley died when his car collided with two other vehicles, including a truck.

The deceased was driving the wrong way up the northbound lane at the time. Three other people were hospitalised.

The couple, both in their 60s, were well-known in the area.

Mrs Quigley (68) worked with Beagans Customs in Dundalk. The wider Quigley family is involved in oil distribution.

James, or Jim as he was known locally, was "quite friendly" but was known to have battled with mental health problems for many years.

"He suffered with depression and could get very down in himself. He suffered from terrible nerves," one local told the Irish Independent.

"He worked with his brother and would be seen leaving the house for work most mornings."

It is understood the couple lost a young son in a drowning tragedy more than 20 years ago.

Another neighbour added: "The woman who died was a lovely, sweet woman. She would stop her car to give you a lift if she saw you walking on the street. That was the type of person she was."

Local priest Fr Gerry Campbell said: "It comes as a huge shock to the community and we cannot even begin to imagine what the family are going through at this time.

"It is quite a small area and a place where the family would have been well known so for this to have happened is an awful tragedy for the area. All that we can do now as a community is rally around the four children and do what we can to comfort them at this time. The shock and sadness is unbearable. There is a large extended family but it is in the time and weeks to come that they will all really need our help and we will have to do what we can for them."

Louth County councillor Declan Breathnach said the deaths were "a terrible tragedy and a terrible loss to the community".

Post mortems will be carried out at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda today.

Gardaí appealed for witnesses to contact Ardee Garda Station on 041-6871130, the Garda Confidential Telephone Line 1800 666 111 or any garda station.

Mark O'Regan and Wayne O'Connor