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Triple tragedy Gsoc launches probe over garda contact with Johnny Hennessey before Cork double murder-suicide

It is understood that at no stage were fears raised with gardaí that any brother was under threat or that there was any suggestion of violence being involved in the family disagreement.

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The farm off the Mitchelstown-Mallow Road in Co Cork where the bodies of two brothers in their 60s were discovered. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

The farm off the Mitchelstown-Mallow Road in Co Cork where the bodies of two brothers in their 60s were discovered. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

The farm off the Mitchelstown-Mallow Road in Co Cork where the bodies of two brothers in their 60s were discovered. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) is to review a Cork double murder-suicide after it emerged at least one of the three brothers involved had contact with gardaí in the hours before the horrific triple tragedy.

The contact in the form of a phone call on Thursday evening involved the brothers assuring Mitchelstown gardaí that a disagreement was being resolved amicably and there was no need for uniformed officers to attend the 25-acre family farm at Corragorm, some 8km from the north Cork town.

A third party is understood to have contacted the gardaí to raise concerns after speaking to Johnny Hennessy that day.

An officer then contacted Johnny, the youngest of the three brothers, by phone.

During the call, 59-year-old Johnny is said to have assured gardaí that the earlier row had been resolved and insisted there was no need for an officer to visit the property.

Following the conversation, gardaí were satisfied that concerns brought to their attention by another individual did not warrant sending a patrol car to the property.

It is understood that at no stage were fears raised with gardaí that any brother was under threat or that there was any suggestion of violence being involved in the family disagreement.

However, several hours later, the bodies of Willie (66) and Paddy ‘Pa’ Hennessy (60) were discovered at the farm after a relative called to ensure everything was all right amid concern that Pa had not returned to his Mitchelstown home.

The body of a third brother, Johnny Hennessy (59), was later recovered from a nearby river.

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Paddy Hennessy

Paddy Hennessy

Paddy Hennessy


A Gsoc spokesperson confirmed they are now reviewing the matter. “Gsoc received a referral on Friday from a Garda Superintendent related to possible contact between An Garda Síochána and one of the deceased prior to the incident,” they said.

“The referral was made under Section 102 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005. The matter is now under examination by Gsoc.”

Pa was found with severe head injuries in the farmyard where the brothers operated a firewood business and raised dry cattle. Willie was found with similar severe head injuries in a nearby shed.

Both had suffered horrific trauma injuries after being struck repeatedly with a heavy axe.

A third brother, Johnny (59), who lived at the farmhouse, was recovered from the River Funshion at lunchtime on
Friday.

For operational reasons, gardaí have declined to disclose the results of post-mortem examinations conducted on the Hennessy brothers at Cork University Hospital (CUH) by Locum State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster.

However, it is understood Willie and Pa both died from multiple severe trauma injuries to the head consistent with blows from a heavy axe.

A blood-stained axe was found a short distance from where the first two bodies were discovered at Corragorm last Thursday night.

The post-mortem examinations also confirmed that there were no injuries involved linked to firearms.

Johnny is understood to have died from drowning.

Gardaí now fear the tragedy was linked to a farm income dispute.

Pa suffered a stroke before Christmas and had been unable to either work the small dry cattle holding, his normal firewood delivery route or his tyre-fitting job.

On his recovery, he wanted to return to his normal work routine with the family farm and his wish was apparently supported by his older brother, Willie.

However, it is understood that Johnny was opposed to the idea and maintained that the farm income should be divided on the basis of those who engaged in the work.

Pa’s firewood route is also believed to have been the most lucrative of those operated.

One local source said that Johnny also opposed any question of splitting the proceeds from cattle sales.

The phone call to gardaí from a concerned third party followed the farm income disagreement and serious concerns over the attitude adopted by Johnny.

Gardaí are investigating whether Johnny may have been overwrought from financial stress, rural isolation and the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown. Mental health issues are also being investigated.

Detectives again appealed to any persons who may have information in relation to the incident to come forward.

“Gardaí are appealing for any persons who may have any information in relation to the whereabouts of the red Toyota Corolla car van, registration number 03 WW 1556, from midnight on Thursday, February 25, until 10am on Friday, February 26 when it was located by gardaí.

“Anyone who has any information should contact investigating gardaí at Mitchelstown garda station on 025 84833, the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111, or any Garda station.”

The three brothers were nicknamed ‘The Saints’ locally and had lost another brother, Jer, to a family tragedy in 2014. A nephew had also died in tragic circumstances in 2012.

Both Willie and Johnny were single while Pa was a father of two.

He had worked for over 30 years in various tyre-fitting firms in Mitchelstown.

His last employer, Michael Downey of JD Tyres, said Pa was “the nicest fella and the most obliging colleague you could ever hope to work with”.

The brothers were also well-known local sportsmen, having played handball in the 1970s and 1980s.

They had also played hurling with Ballygiblin GAA in Mitchelstown.

All three had worked the small family holding, raising dry cattle, preparing and selling firewood, undertaking local contracting work and supplying both hay and straw to neighbouring farmers.

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