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Devastation Harrowing evidence heard at Kanturk tragedy inquest lays bare the deep family hostility

In her own words, this is how Anne O'Sullivan (61) described to gardaí the events immediately before and after the tragedy

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The farmhouse in Kanturk, Co Cork, where the bodies of Tadg O’Sullivan and his sons were found. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

The farmhouse in Kanturk, Co Cork, where the bodies of Tadg O’Sullivan and his sons were found. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

The farmhouse in Kanturk, Co Cork, where the bodies of Tadg O’Sullivan and his sons were found. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Anne O'Sullivan made multiple statements to gardaí describing in horrific detail the events that led to the murder-double suicide which claimed the lives of her eldest son, Mark (25), her husband, Tadg (59), and her youngest son, Diarmuid (23).

In her own words, this is how Anne (61) described to gardaí the events immediately before and after the tragedy on October 26, 2020:

"On Sunday October 25, my son Mark and I returned home to Raheen, Kanturk after 3pm after spending two weeks with the Sherlocks (cousins)," she said. "Mark drove both of us home in his Volkswagen Jetta.

"When we arrived home, nobody was home. Nothing was locked. The television was on in the kitchen.

"Mark was taking stuff from the car. We had been shopping earlier in the day in Lidl in Kanturk.

"Maybe ten minutes after arriving home, Tadg and Diarmuid came into the house. I may have been sitting on the couch when they came in.

"After they washed their hands, Diarmuid spoke to me more than Tadg.

"Diarmuid said something along the lines of saying: 'I will say "Hello" and ask you "How are you" but that is as far as it goes'. Diarmuid said he had gotten telephone calls during the week asking was there trouble at home.

"Tadg asked him to stop as he had said too much already.

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Anne O’Sullivan died on Wednesday following a serious illness (Andy Gibson/PA)

Anne O’Sullivan died on Wednesday following a serious illness (Andy Gibson/PA)

Anne O’Sullivan died on Wednesday following a serious illness (Andy Gibson/PA)

"I felt there was tension and a coldness between us. Sometime after that, Mark and I moved up to the other room and lit the stove and we stayed there for the evening.

"At some stage they left without us realising. They left in Tadg's car, that (Opel) Mokka. I cannot put a time on that and don't have a time for when they came back.

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"I may have gone to bed at around 8pm. I cannot be sure but they were not back before that anyway.

"I fell asleep at some stage while watching TV. I was not taking anything (medicine) to sleep at that time.

"I got up during the night to go to the toilet. Diarmuid was asleep on the couch in the kitchen with the TV on and I remember turning it off.

"Diarmuid didn't acknowledge that I passed or was awake so I just presumed he was asleep. Diarmuid had slept on the couch prior to us leaving to stay with the Sherlocks.

"At around 6am, (October 26) I heard movement in the house to alert me that somebody was up, presuming it was Tadg.

"I did think to myself it was early, as I thought to myself it was a bank holiday Monday and he would not have been working.

"I woke at some stage after that. I don't know the noise or something that woke me. I cannot describe the noise (but) I know now it was gunshots. I didn't realise it was gunshots until I was after seeing them (rifles) in Tadg and Diarmuid's hands.

"I got up and put on my dressing gown and shoes.

"I left my bedroom to find Tadg and Diarmuid with guns. I don't know guns and never investigated the guns attached to the house other than my father had a shotgun and it was the same as you would see on TV.

"Tadg and Diarmuid were facing into the bedroom - the bedroom that Mark was in.

"I cannot remember the order in which this happened but I said: 'Oh my God, what have ye done now?' They both left off a shot each towards the bedroom in the door.

"I went back into my room to get my phone and when I came out, Diarmuid took the phone from me.

"Diarmuid said something but I don't remember what. (It later emerged that it was: 'There's your solicitor's letter for you.') Diarmuid was the one nearest me and Tadg was on the far side.

"They were both dressed in normal clothes, nothing different in that sense. They seemed agitated - Tadg didn't say a word. They both left then.

"I went in to where Mark was to find a phone but only located a lead or charger.

"Mark was lying out of bed, sitting on the floor up against the bed and locker, blood and slime coming from his mouth, his legs wrapped in the duvet and sheets. I didn't find a phone. I went up to the parlour to see if I could locate the landline. Mark was just wearing underwear, nothing else.

"When I went to look for that, (phone) it had been taken and was missing. I had left that there the previous night."

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Mark O’Sullivan

Mark O’Sullivan

Mark O’Sullivan

Mrs O'Sullivan told gardaí she then looked for a key to open the gate leading out from the farm courtyard.

"My intention was to open the gate and leave in a car to get help. Before I left the house, I said to Mark: 'Hold on, I am going to get help'. But when I reached the gate I found a newer, bigger lock."

Unable to use a car to get help, Mrs O'Sullivan realised she had no option but to raise the alarm on foot.

"I then saw both Tadg and Diarmuid outside the gate or courtyard walls. Tadg was pacing back and forth a little with the gun in his hands.

"None of them uttered a word to me - Tadg may have seen me but Diarmuid was facing the other way.

"I went back into the house and thought to myself 'how I am going to get out of here?'"

"So I went out what I call the front of the house where there is a little garden. I went out the side of the house and kept to the right over by the fairy fort and down by the ditches on the right to stay out of sight."

"I came out onto the passage and down into Cronins' yard. From the house to there is about half a mile. I didn't see or hear Tadg or Diarmuid anymore by the time I got to Cronin's house.

"I came into the yard and Jackie (Cronin) had possibly just gone out to do cows when he came around the corner.

"I alerted him to what was after happening. I knocked at the door of the Cronins' house and that is what alerted Jackie and [wife] Ann."

She later told the couple Tadg and Diarmuid had "shot him (Mark) again in front of me". Mrs O'Sullivan was distraught as she said: "Tadg and Diarmuid did what they done to make (me) suffer."

Armed gardaí were at the scene within minutes of the alarm being raised by the Cronins while Anne's cousin and neighbour, Louise Sherlock, was called to the house to support her. Two major security cordons were placed around the area with armed officers later discovering Mark's blood-stained body in his bedroom and the bodies of Tadg and Diarmuid in a field some 600m from the farmhouse, close to a fairy fort.

Both Tadg and Diarmuid died from single gunshot wounds to the head and handwritten notes, both addressed to Anne O'Sullivan, were found on the bodies.

Gardaí recovered two rifles, a bolt action CZ and a semi-automatic Squires Bingham, both .22 calibre.

Later it would emerge the mother of two was frightened of her husband and younger son over their aggressive stance about the will since February - and deeply hurt when Tadg, in remarks aimed to wound, told her he married her only "to better himself".

The inquest heard Tadg warned his wife he married her because she had land and that he had never loved her.

Diarmuid, in presenting his "vision" to her for what he would do with the Raheen farm, got agitated when arguing that the property was static and not progressing.

He said he had ambitious plans for the property - but also admitted to his mother that this project would also likely result in him spending his life in debt.

Diarmuid confronted his mother about his plan just weeks after her terminal cancer diagnosis.

The accountancy student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) then gave his mother one week to make a decision about his proposal - with Mark getting the home farmhouse, the farm courtyard and a few boggy fields.

Diarmuid wanted the bulk of the farmland - and argued to his mother that he was both entitled to it and deserved it. He was supported in this argument by his father, with whom he had started a timber-cutting business.

Mark was deeply unhappy with Diarmuid's proposal - something his mother realised when she asked him his opinion.

This was after raising the fact that Diarmuid was already going to receive all the land his father had inherited from his family at nearby Cecilstown. However, that land was not as large or as valuable as the Raheen holding.

He confided his concerns to friends, Clara Lucey and Sharmilla Raman. Mark met Sharmilla when he was studying at University of Limerick and they became best friends.

He met Clara through his legal work. In statements to gardaí, both Clara and Charmilla described Mark as kind, generous, thoughtful and protective of friends - and deeply devoted to his mother.

One had met Diarmuid and told gardaí she did not like him as he: "did not give off good vibes."

Both had urged Mark to leave the Raheen property after he confided in them that Diarmuid had confronted a neighbour and warned her that if he didn't get his own way with the will, there would be "a trail of carnage".

Diarmuid also warned that: "There will be no lights on in Raheen ever again."

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Dermuid OSullivan.

Dermuid OSullivan.

Dermuid OSullivan.

Both Clara and Sharmilla were alarmed at the apparent threat contained in Diarmuid's words - and also believed that the stress and tension in the Raheen home was contributing to Mark's ill health.

Mark had been treated at Mallow General Hospital (MGH) for weight loss and acute stomach problems.

The young man was mocked by his father as being "lazy" and overweight - while his younger brother passed derogatory comments about his work on a laptop rather than outside around the farm.

Mark later told a friend he had "stupidly" agreed to what Diarmuid was demanding in a desperate bid to ease tensions in the family home.

However, when his mother - unhappy at how her eldest son was being treated - raised concerns over the proposed inheritance settlement, Diarmuid turned on his brother.

The young man accused his older brother of being "a snake" and "a rat".

Tadg again sided with Diarmuid and warned that if the younger son followed through on a threat to take his own life over the will dispute, Mark would be the cause of it.

It was only after Mark's fatal shooting that a two-page unsigned letter was found in his mother's pharmacy bag. Forensic analysis determined that the letter, while unsigned, was written by Mark.

It revealed he feared for his life and that of his mother - and that his beloved Raheen home was, to his great distress, no longer "a safe haven". Mark also outlined the bullying and intimidation from his father and younger brother.

A neighbour was so concerned at what was happening that she went to gardaí for advice - but was not aware that firearms were licensed and stored at the property in a gunsafe in Tadg's bedroom. Tadg had the only key.

The neighbour advised Anne and Mark as to their options following the garda meeting - and insisted they log the number for Kanturk garda station in their mobile phones.

Anne subsequently never made a complaint to gardaí and never sought either a protection or a barring order.

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Tadg O'Sullivan

Tadg O'Sullivan

Tadg O'Sullivan

Mark did not tell several male friends what was happening for fear one might physically confront Diarmuid.

When Anne left her Raheen home for a fortnight on October 11 to stay at a neighbour's house with Mark, she had her solicitor write to Tadg and Diarmuid about their behaviour. Even this was only done after she had been unable to contact her husband and younger son by normal means.

The solicitor's letter asked that Tadg and Diarmuid end their unacceptable behaviour.

In response, they sent a letter back to the solicitor asking that Anne and Mark return to the farmhouse - a reply that Anne interpreted as offering hope of a compromise.

Tragically, the indications from the final letters written by Tadg and Diarmuid - and later found on their bodies - was that they had carefully planned the attack on Mark several days before he returned to the farmhouse with his mother on October 25.

The Mallow inquest heard that Mark had wept as he was leaving the neighbour's house.

Anne O'Sullivan attended the joint Requiem Mass of her husband and youngest son - having to be physically supported by friends.

She led the mourners at the separate Requiem Mass of her eldest son, Mark, which was held in Kanturk the following day - and Mark's friend, Charmilla Raman, highlighted the close bond that existed between Anne and Mark.

Anne O'Sullivan's condition deteriorated after Christmas and she died at a Cork hospice on April 7. Her friends, cousins and neighbours loyally supported her to the end.

At her Requiem Mass, Fr Toby Bluitt spoke of Mrs O'Sullivan's courage in the face of incredible pain and adversity.

"She died, as we might say, before her time. As was characteristic of her, she accepted her fate with dignity and courage," he said.

"I know that we are conscious of the fact that Anne's untimely passing was not the only tragedy in her life.

"The clouds that can, and do, settle over our lives sometimes rob us of fulfilment and peace, of an ordered, easy existence. They bring a darkness into our lives that we feel cannot be shaken." Tadg and Diarmuid O'Sullivan are buried in the O'Sullivan family plot in Castlemagner cemetery, alongside Tadg's parents. The grave had been unmarked until Anne's death, but the family recently added their names

After the harrowing Mallow inquest on Wednesday, a recommendation was made by the jury that protocols over third-party contacts to gardaí involving others' safety particularly in cases of firearms possession, be reviewed.

"I would normally offer condolence. 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 said.

Gardaí are now awaiting the written inquest verdict and the jury recommendation to determine what action, if any, is required.

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 on freephone 1800 24 72 47

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