| 16.1°C Dublin

'Terrible tragedy' Verdict of unlawful killing and suicides in deaths of O’Sullivan family in Kanturk, Co Cork

  • Warning: Below article contains distressing content
  • Mother previously warned by husband and son ‘to sort will or she would be following two coffins to a local cemetery’


Anne O’Sullivan with her beloved son Mark

Anne O’Sullivan with her beloved son Mark

A view of the farmhouse in Assolas, Kanturk, north Cork

A view of the farmhouse in Assolas, Kanturk, north Cork


Anne O’Sullivan with her beloved son Mark

The jury at the inquest of Kanturk victim Mark O’Sullivan today returned a verdict of unlawful killing, in what the coroner described as a "a terrible tragedy, almost beyond human comprehension".

The six person jury ruled that Tadg O'Sullivan and Diarmuid O'Sullivan had taken their own lives.

A recommendation was issued that protocols over third party contacts to Gardai involving the safety of others, particularly in cases of firearms possession, be reviewed.

North Cork Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy said; "I would normally offer condolences (to the bereaved family). But here the O'Sullivan home is now empty. A terrible sequence of events led to the devastation of the O'Sullivan family."

"It is hard to make sense of it."

Dr Kennedy extended his sympathies to the neighbours, friends and entire north Cork community and urged any family experiencing difficulties to seek mediation and proper support.

Helplines: If you have been affected by any of these issues, click here for more information

The inquest today heard how mother of two Anne O’Sullivan saw her husband and younger son shoot her oldest son in his bedroom - and the duo, armed with rifles, then turned to her and said: "There is your solicitor's letter for you."


(L-R) Mark O'Sullivan, Timothy 'Tadhg' O'Sullivan and Diarmuid O'Sullivan

(L-R) Mark O'Sullivan, Timothy 'Tadhg' O'Sullivan and Diarmuid O'Sullivan

(L-R) Mark O'Sullivan, Timothy 'Tadhg' O'Sullivan and Diarmuid O'Sullivan

The revelation came as a Cork coroner today opened inquests into the deaths last year of Tadg O'Sullivan (59) and his two sons, Mark (25) and Diarmuid (23).

Mark was shot by his father, Tadg, and younger brother, Diarmuid, in a tragic confrontation at their Kanturk home in north Cork over a disputed €2m will.

The inquest heard today that Mark was shot a total of seven times by his father and younger brother as he was ambushed in his bedroom following a dispute over a land inheritance.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

Eight .22 cartridges had been fired in the bedroom.

The young man died from a traumatic brain injury after a bullet had entered his skull.

He had desperately tried to protect himself - and bullets had even passed through his arms.

His mother, Anne O'Sullivan, got up at 7am on October 26 2020 on hearing the first gunshots and went to her eldest son's bedroom.

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

Both then shot Mark O'Sullivan again in front of his distraught mother.

Both Tadg and Diarmuid then died minutes later in a field near a fairy fort just metres from the farmhouse.

Both had sustained single gunshot wounds through the mouth with .22 calibre rifles subsequently found by their sides.

The inquest heard that such injuries through the mouth are often indicative of self-inflicted wounds.

Both gunshots had caused fatal, traumatic brain injuries.

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

The mother, who lost her husband and two sons to the horrific murder-double suicide, died last April having been diagnosed with a serious illness before the tragedy unfolded.

Anne O'Sullivan (61) was already battling a long-term health condition when the tragedy occurred at the farmhouse at Assolas outside Kanturk last October.

Mrs O'Sullivan died last April just days after she had turned 61.

She had been very ill in the weeks before her death and had been cared for at a hospice.

North Cork Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy opened the inquests into the deaths of Tadg, Mark and Diarmuid in Mallow having postponed the hearing last month.

In the early hours of October 26 2020, Tadg and Diarmuid confronted Mark in his bedroom in the family home outside Kanturk in north Cork over a dispute involving a family will.

Mrs O'Sullivan had wanted to split the Assolas farm between her sons - but Diarmuid became increasingly agitated as he demanded the lion's share of the holding.

Mark died after being shot seven times at close range.

As his mother ran to the scene she said: "Oh my God, what have you done?"

As she looked on, the duo then shot Mark again.

Mrs O'Sullivan was left unharmed by her husband and youngest son though they took her mobile phone - forcing her to run to a neighbour's house to raise the alarm.

A gate at the property had been carefully locked with a new padlock.


A view of the farmhouse in Assolas, Kanturk, north Cork

A view of the farmhouse in Assolas, Kanturk, north Cork

A view of the farmhouse in Assolas, Kanturk, north Cork

She told shocked neighbours after running for almost one kilometre that she had been left unharmed by the duo so she could suffer.

Days earlier, Diarmuid O'Sullivan had warned another neighbour that: "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," he warned.

Diarmuid had repeatedly warned his family he would take his own life if he did not get his way with the land inheritance.

His father had supported him and demanded that his wife make a will.

At one point, they warned her if she didn't sort the issue out, she would be following two coffins to a local cemetery and "crying crocodile tears."

Mrs O'Sullivan, in a statement made to Gardaí before her death, said Diarmuid insisted he had "a vision" for the land and felt he was entitled to it.

He described his older brother as lazy and that he did nothing to deserve the inheritance.

The mother of two - who was undergoing cancer treatment - said she was left upset and frightened by one incident in which her husband and younger son confronted her in her bedroom and demanded that she address the land issue.

Mrs O'Sullivan said she was shocked by her husband whose face was red and his eyes were bulging.

However, Anne O'Sullivan, while attempting to split the farm, made a special provision for Mark O'Sullivan in light of the fact that Diarmuid was also going to inherit further land at Cecilstown from his father.

Diarmuid started reading his mother's personal correspondence and would open her mail.

For a time, he refused to speak to his mother and she did not act on his demand for the land settlement.

The inquest heard tensions within the family had mounted from February 28 2020 when Anne was informed she had terminal cancer.

Mark and Anne O'Sullivan felt so frightened and intimidated by the deteriorating atmosphere in the farmhouse they had moved in with a neighbour for almost two weeks before the tragedy.

Mark had feared so much for his own safety and that of his mother that he slept at the foot of her bed.

A cousin of Mrs O'Sullivan's, Louise Sherlock, went to Gardaí to make them aware of the tensions within the O'Sullivan home - but the neighbour did not know there were firearms in the property.

Mrs O'Sullivan did not subsequently go to Gardaí seeking a protection or barring order. She did not express concerns that there were firearms in her home in a gun safe to which her husband had the key.

Mark left a two page note, found after the shootings in his mother's pharmacy bag, which outlined what they had endured from Tadg and Diarmuid over the land dispute.

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

"I fear for my own safety and that of my mother."

He said he had been verbally abused by his father and younger brother - and did not feel safe in his own home.

Mark wrote that he had stupidly agreed to a demand for a verbal agreement over the land issue with his younger brother - but wrote he did so in a desperate attempt to calm things down.

Diarmuid later accused his older brother of being "a snake" and "a rat" after realising he was not going to get his own way with the will.

Mark was found dead in his bedroom by armed Gardaí who raced to the scene.

The bodies of his father and younger brother were located by Gardai some 600 metres from the farmhouse off the Castlemagner-Kanturk road.

Both had sustained a single fatal gunshot injury and were found at a field known as 'The Fort', adjacent to an old fairy fort.

Two .22 rifles, one bolt action and one semi-automatic, were found nearby.

Three legally held firearms in total were recovered by Gardai from both scenes - two rifles and a shotgun.

The triple tragedy was sparked by a bitter dispute over a family will involving the 140 acre property.

Attempts to resolve the dispute failed and Mark was repeatedly confronted by his father and younger brother amid mounting tensions over the impasse.

Documentation in respect of the dispute was found near the bodies of Tadg and Diarmuid - and legal letters were found by Gardaí at the property itself.

Handwritten letters addressed to Anne O'Sullivan were found on the bodies of both Tadg and Diarmuid.

Mrs O'Sullivan had only returned to the Assolas farmhouse some 36 hours before the tragedy, having travelled to a medical appointment in Dublin with her eldest son.

When her husband and youngest son refused to communicate with her via telephone, she had sent a solicitor's letter to them over the deteriorating situation.

They had written to the solicitor asking Mrs O'Sullivan to return home.

A key element of the Garda investigation was whether the mother and her eldest son were deliberately lured back to the farmhouse.

The mother of two - who worked for years as a nurse at Mt Alvernia Hospital outside Mallow - attended both the Requiem Mass of Tadg and Diarmuid and later the Requiem Mass of her son, Mark.

She passed away just six months later.

Mark, a trainee solicitor, was hailed as "the greatest son a mother could have."

His Requiem Mass heard that "the bond between them (Anne and Mark) was unbreakable."

"Mark had such a big heart and so much love to give...I can't imagine how much effort and love he put into being Anne's son," his best friend Sharmilla said.

Helplines: If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, click here for more information

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices