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Deadly revelations Kanturk victim Mark O'Sullivan feared for his life in €2m will dispute

Mark also told a friend that Diarmuid had threatened to turn off his mother's cancer treatment machine during the night.

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Mark O’Sullivan’s remains are brought to Church of the Immaculate Conception

Mark O’Sullivan’s remains are brought to Church of the Immaculate Conception

Mark O’Sullivan’s remains are brought to Church of the Immaculate Conception

MARK O'Sullivan so feared being attacked by his brother and father over a €2m land dispute he ­confided to a friend that he believed they might try to murder him and make it look like suicide.

The young solicitor urged his friend to keep all correspondence to prove he had not been suicidal and to show it to gardaí in the event of his death.

The revelation came as a North Cork Coroner's inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing for Mark (25), who was shot by his father, Tadg (59), and younger brother, Diarmuid (23), at their farmhouse home outside Kanturk last October following a dispute over a family will.

An inquest jury in Mallow ruled that Tadg and Diarmuid then took their own lives.

Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy said the deaths were "a terrible tragedy - almost beyond human comprehension."

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Anne O’Sullivan with her beloved son Mark, who was murdered by his brother and dad on the family farm in Co Cork last year.

Anne O’Sullivan with her beloved son Mark, who was murdered by his brother and dad on the family farm in Co Cork last year.

Anne O’Sullivan with her beloved son Mark, who was murdered by his brother and dad on the family farm in Co Cork last year.

A recommendation was issued by the six-person jury that protocols over third-party contacts to gardaí involving the safety of others, particularly in cases of firearms ­possession, be reviewed.

"I would normally offer condolences (to the bereaved family). But here the O'Sullivan home is now empty," Dr Kennedy said.

The inquest heard details of how Mark O'Sullivan was shot in an ambush-style attack by his father and brother in his bedroom before they went to a nearby field and took their own lives.

Anne O'Sullivan (61) witnessed her husband and younger son shoot Mark.

The pair, armed with rifles, then turned to her and said: "There's your solicitor's letter for you."

Mark was shot seven times by his father and brother following a dispute over a land inheritance.

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The coffins of Tadg O’Sullivan and his son Diarmuid leave St Mary’s Church in Castlemagner, Co Cork after their funeral service (Andy Gibson/PA)

The coffins of Tadg O’Sullivan and his son Diarmuid leave St Mary’s Church in Castlemagner, Co Cork after their funeral service (Andy Gibson/PA)

The coffins of Tadg O’Sullivan and his son Diarmuid leave St Mary’s Church in Castlemagner, Co Cork after their funeral service (Andy Gibson/PA)

Eight .22 cartridges had been fired in the bedroom.

Mark died from a traumatic brain injury after a bullet entered his skull, with bullets also lacerating his liver and a lung.

He had tried to protect himself, with evidence that bullets passed through his arms.

Anne O'Sullivan got up before 7am on hearing the first gunshots and went to Mark's bedroom.

There she saw her husband and younger son standing in the doorway armed with rifles.

Both then shot Mark again in front of her.

Tadg and Diarmuid died minutes later in a field near a fairy fort close to the farmhouse. Both sustained single gunshot wounds, with .22 calibre rifles subsequently found by their bodies.

Gardaí believe Diarmuid took his own life first, followed by his father.

Anne O'Sullivan died last April, having been diagnosed with a serious illness last year.

She had wanted to evenly divide the farm between her two sons, but Diarmuid became agitated as he demanded the lion's share of the holding.

He wanted his brother to receive only the family home, the farm courtyard and a few boggy fields, and he gave his dying mother a deadline to agree to this arrangement.

The inquest heard that on running to Mark's bedroom after hearing gunshots, Anne said: "Oh my God, what have you done?"

As she looked on, Tadg and Diarmuid shot Mark again.

She was left unharmed by her husband and younger son, although they took her mobile phone, forcing her to run to the house of her neighbours, Jackie and Ann Cronin, to raise the alarm.

She told the couple after running for almost a kilometre from the farmhouse that she had been left unharmed so she would suffer.

Days earlier, Diarmuid had warned a neighbour: "There will be no lights on in Raheen ever again. This will all be over in a few weeks and there will be a trail of carnage."

Diarmuid had repeatedly warned his family he would kill himself if he did not get his way with the inheritance.

However, he had said that if he were to receive the bulk of the farm, he would not feel suicidal any more. His father supported him and demanded that his wife make a will.

When she received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, Tadg had told her: "Get your affairs in order."

He also warned Mark that if Diarmuid died, it would be his fault for not agreeing to the farm division.

Mark later told a friend, Clara Lucey, that his father warned his mother he had "only married her for her land and he never loved her."

Mark said when his mother told them she had terminal cancer, his brother had only smirked. Later, during a discussion, his father and brother said Anne would be better off dying quickly.

"She is better off dead - if she was going to go it would be better sooner," they said.

Mark also told a friend that Diarmuid had threatened to turn off his mother's cancer treatment machine during the night.

Anne, in a statement made to gardaí before her death, said Diarmuid had insisted he had "a vision" for the land and felt entitled to it.

He described his brother as lazy and said he had done nothing to deserve the inheritance, despite Mark doing all the housework after their mother became ill.

However, while trying to evenly divide the farm, she had made a provision for Mark in light of the fact that Diarmuid would inherit other land at Cecilstown from his father.

Diarmuid even began reading his mother's personal correspondence.

The inquest heard tensions within the family had mounted after February 28 last year when Anne was told she had terminal cancer, having been treated for breast cancer in 2012. Mark and his mother felt so frightened that they had moved in with a neighbour, Louise Sherlock, for almost two weeks before the tragedy.

Ms Sherlock, a cousin of Anne, went to gardaí to make them aware of the tensions within the O'Sullivan home, but she did not know there were firearms in the property.

In the aftermath of the deaths, a two-page letter written by Mark was found in his mother's pharmacy bag.

It outlined what he and Anne had endured at the hands of Tadg and Diarmuid over the land dispute.

"I feel like a caged animal that has been consistently prodded by abusive captors," Mark wrote.

"I no longer feel safe at home - my own safety and my mother's is in danger."

Mark told a friend he had "stupidly" agreed to a demand for a verbal agreement over the land issue with his brother, but said he did so only in a desperate attempt to ease tensions in the family home.

Diarmuid later accused his older brother of being "a snake" and "a rat". Handwritten letters addressed to Anne were found on the bodies of Tadg and Diarmuid. These were not read out at the inquest.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this report, Samaritans are on freephone 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie. Pieta House is available on freephone 1800 24 72 47.

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