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Cork tragedy Axe attack inquest hears Johnny Hennessy said ‘I'm in trouble, I'm in trouble’ in panicked phone call

Inquest into the deaths of Johnny (59), Paddy (60) and Willie (66) Hennessy opened this morning

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Willie (left) and Paddy Hennessy

Willie (left) and Paddy Hennessy

Willie (left) and Paddy Hennessy

TWO brothers died from horrific head injuries inflicted by a heavy axe in a farmyard attack with the body of their younger brother later being recovered from a nearby river.

The revelation came as North Cork Coroner Dr Micheal Kennedy opened an inquest into the deaths of Johnny (59), Paddy (60) and Willie (66) Hennessy last February.

All three died following a triple tragedy at Corragorm outside Mitchelstown in north Cork on February 25 last.

Willie and Pa Hennessy suffered horrific head injuries - both being individually attacked with an axe before they could flee or properly defend themselves.

Gardai later recovered the blood stained axe in the farmyard.

The body of Johnny Hennessy was recovered the following day from a nearby river.

The inquest heard that Johnny rang his sister, Breda O'Reilly, in a very distressed condition on the evening of February 25.

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The farm off the Mitchelstown to Mallow Road outside Kildorrery, where the bodies of two of the Hennessy brothers, Willie and Paddy, were discovered. Photo: Daragh McSweeney / Provision

The farm off the Mitchelstown to Mallow Road outside Kildorrery, where the bodies of two of the Hennessy brothers, Willie and Paddy, were discovered. Photo: Daragh McSweeney / Provision

The farm off the Mitchelstown to Mallow Road outside Kildorrery, where the bodies of two of the Hennessy brothers, Willie and Paddy, were discovered. Photo: Daragh McSweeney / Provision

"Johnny seemed kind of stressed - I got a fright from him. He said there was a row between the brothers and one of them hit him a belt of a fist," she said.

"I was a bit shocked - they were always quiet boys and were never fighting."

Her husband, Ned, took the phone and, after declining to attend the Corragorm property because of the Covid-19 5km travel restriction, asked Johnny whether he should contact gardai for help?

Johnny agreed and Ned rang Mitchelstown gardai.

Later, Johnny was talking a second time to his sister and said he had cancelled the Garda call to the farmyard.

"I'm OK - he said something like, it's ok, they are talking again.

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"Johnny said he had put them (gardai) off.”

Ned O'Reilly said his brother-in-law was very upset on the phone earlier.

The three brothers were known locally as 'The Saints Hennessy.'

"(Johnny said) I'm in trouble, I'm in trouble - can you come over? He said there had been a row and the other two boys had beat him up. He sounded out of breath.

"Johnny was very, very distressed."

Mr O'Reilly said he would get him help and call the gardai.

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A hearse passes through Mitchelstown following the funeral mass of brothers Willie and Paddy Hennessy (PA)

A hearse passes through Mitchelstown following the funeral mass of brothers Willie and Paddy Hennessy (PA)

A hearse passes through Mitchelstown following the funeral mass of brothers Willie and Paddy Hennessy (PA)

He said he got Mr Hennessy's permission to ring as: "He hates the gardai and doctors."

Garda Tracey Howard said she received a phone call from Mr O'Reilly and rang Johnny Hennessy's number.

She said he was calm and collected on the phone and did not want gardai to call.

There was no sound of noise or a disturbance in the background.

"He cracked a joke to say that at their age they should know better," she said.

Garda Howard said she repeatedly asked him did he want gardai to call but he insisted everything was fine.

"I got no red flags from it," she said.

Garda James Wade said he overheard part of the conversation at the Garda station and had heard Mr Hennessy repeatedly insist everything was ok and that there was no need for gardai to call to the farmyard.

Gardai decided a call to the property was not warranted.

However, Elaine Hennessy, Paddy's daughter, became worried about her father when he failed to return home and at 11pm decided to call to the farmyard to see if everything was alright.

There was no answer to any of the three brothers' phones.

She travelled to Corragorm with her mother, Stephanie.

As they drove into the farmyard, the headlights of the car highlighted a body on the ground.

"Mam said that's a body - I could see it too. I knew it was Dad because I recognised his clothes. I could see it covered in blood."

Both women immediately called gardai and locked the car doors amid concerns for their safety.

"I knew he was dead. It looked gruesome."

Pa's body was found in a farmyard with multiple head injuries while his brother Willie's body was found in a nearby shed, also with severe head injuries.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said both men would have died quickly from multiple severe blows from a 3.5kg timber axe.

Dr Bolster conducted post mortems on Willie and Paddy at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on February 26.

Willie Hennessy died from blunt force trauma to the head with a severe brain injury as a result of multiple blows from a blunt weapon (axe).

He also suffered fractures to his skull, jaw, face and vertebrae.

Possible defence-type wounds were found on his hands and arms.

Paddy Hennessy also died from blunt force trauma to the head and a severe brain injury caused by multiple blows from an axe.

The injuries in both cases were caused by the blunt-end of the heavy axe.

Paddy Hennessy also suffered fractured ribs after also suffering a blow to the chest.

He had no defence injuries.

Dr Bolster conducted a post mortem examination on Johnny Hennessy on February 27 and ruled he died from cardio-respiratory failure as a result of drowning.

Minor injuries to his hands were consistent with a body recovered from the water.

The brothers had run a successful firewood business from the isolated farmyard outside Mitchelstown - supplying timber across north Cork.

Johnny Hennessy apparently drove his Toyota Corolla van the short 4km distance to Killacluig Church from Corragorm where he parked and walked over several fields.

His body was recovered shortly before lunch on February 26 from the River Funshion following a major Garda search operation including the use of the Garda helicopter.

Gardaí confirmed earlier this year they were not seeking anyone else in relation to the three deaths.

The inquest continues.

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