Mitchelstown Saints | 

Three Cork brothers who died in a gruesome murder suicide take bloody secret to their graves

Despite leaving estates valued at a combined €300k, none of the three left behind a will that might have offered an explanation

Brothers Willie and Paddy Hennessy.

Gardaí at the scene of the brutal killings

Johnny Hennessy

Patrick O'ConnellSunday World

Three brothers who died in a gruesome murder suicide have taken the secret of what sparked the tragedy to their graves.

Despite leaving estates valued at a combined €300,000, none of the three left behind a will that might have explained the reason Johnny Hennessy took an axe to older brothers Paddy and Willie at Curraghgorm, Mitchelstown on February 25th of 2021.

Later that same night, Johnny took his own life in a nearby river.

The deaths of the three brothers, collectively known as the Saints, at an isolated farmyard outside Mitchelstown 18 months ago has continued to baffle gardai.

But any hope that a clue as to the motive for the brual killings might be contained in their wills were dashed this week – almost a year after gardai told their inquest ‘no clear reason’ had been found for the killings.

Probate documents obtained by the Sunday World showed the brothers, who ran a firewood business, left combined estates amounting to €307,805.

The documents show that William Hennessy (66), the oldest of the brothers, left an estate valued at €49,660.

He died ‘intestate’ leaving no will behind him.

The probate documents note he was a single man who had never married or entered into a civil partnership estate and who died ‘without issue or parents.’

Letters of administration for the estate were granted to his sister Breda.

Slain Paddy or Patrick Hennessy (60) was the most prosperous of the three siblings leaving an estate valued at €198,120.

Probate documents again show that Paddy died ‘intestate’ or without a will.

He was survived by his spouse Stephanie Hennessy but the documents note she had ‘duly renounced her rights by deed of separation.

Letters of administration for the estate were granted to Elaine Hennessy – Paddy’s daughter.

Sibling killer Johnny (59), the youngest of the three, left an estate valued at €59,716.

Again, the documents note he died intestate.

Gardaí at the scene of the brutal killings

Johnny is described in the documents as a single person who had never married or entered civil partnership and who had died without issue (children) or parents.

Accordingly, letters for the administration of his estate were again granted to his sister Breda.

Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy staged an inquest in November 2021 into the triple tragedy.

He confirmed verdicts that Willie and Paddy Hennessy were unlawfully killed while Johnny Hennessy took his own life.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster 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.

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

He had no defence injuries.

Johnny Hennessy

Dr Bolster conducted a post-mortem 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.

Supt Padraic Powell told the inquest gardaí conducted a major investigation into the tragedy which included taking 169 statements, analysing data from five phones, studying hours of CCTV security camera footage and conducting extensive forensic tests.

However, they were unable to establish a clear motive for the fatal attack.

"For an unknown reason, Johnny Hennessy killed his two brothers on February 25. Johnny Hennessy then took his own life," Supt Powell said.

One neighbour, John McGrath, noted friction between Paddy and Johnny Hennessy – with Johnny apparently unwilling to return customers from the family firewood business to Paddy when the older brother returned to work after recovering from a stroke.

"There was a small bit of friction between Johnny and Paddy," he said.

Mr McGrath said that Willie told him Johnny didn't want to return firewood block customers to Paddy when he returned to work after the stroke and wanted to resume his local timber round.

The inquest also heard that when gardaí found the spot where Johnny Hennessy entered the River Funshion, his false teeth, cigarettes, car keys and a plastic bottle had been carefully placed on the riverbank.

There were also indications he had sat by the riverbank for a period before entering the water.

Mr Hennessy took his life at the same spot where his older brother, Jerry, had taken his own life less than a decade before.

Paddy Hennessy's son, Paudie, had also taken his own life a number of years before.

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

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

Johnny agreed and Ned rang Mitchelstown Gardaí.

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 gardaí 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.

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 Curraghgorm 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 gardaí and locked the car doors amid concerns for their safety.

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

Paddy'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.

Both had to be formally identified from dental records.

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

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

They lived a spartan life but were always together and had no history of disputes.

Paddy Hennessy's partner, Kitty Russell, said they all got on well together.

After killing his brothers, Johnny Hennessy apparently drove his Toyota Corolla van the short 4km distance to Killacluig Church from Curraghgorm 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.

Today's Headlines

More Irish Crime

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