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triple tragedy Gardaí spoke with suspected axe-killer hours before killings at farm in Cork

During the call, 59-year-old Johnny Hennessy is said to have assured gardaí that an earlier row at the 17-acre property had been resolved.


Paddy Hennessy

Paddy Hennessy

Paddy Hennessy

Gardaí spoke by phone with the suspected killer in an apparent double murder-suicide in Cork - hours before his two brothers were found dead on a farm.

Suspected axe-killer Johnny Hennessy rang a third party on the evening of the killings saying there was "awful fighting" going on at the 17-acre property.

The recipient of this phone call is understood to have subsequently notified gardaí. An officer then contacted Johnny, the youngest of the three Hennessy 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.

Gardaí investigating the apparent suicide of Johnny and the axe murders of brothers Willie Hennessy (66) and Paddy Hennessy (60) say the results of forensic examinations will be required before it can be definitively stated that Johnny was responsible for the murder of both his brothers.

Because of the earlier phone call, gardaí believe more than one row may have occurred on the property in the immediate time-period leading up to the tragic deaths.

"The full results of the forensic examination of the scene and the post mortems will help determine the exact sequence of the deaths," a source said.

Sources said yesterday gardaí do not believe the triple tragedy that unfolded at the Hennessy family's 17-acre holding in Curraghgorm, near Mitchelstown, occurred as a result of a dispute over land.


Hennessy family home at Curraghgorm, near Mitchelstown, Co Cork.

Hennessy family home at Curraghgorm, near Mitchelstown, Co Cork.

Hennessy family home at Curraghgorm, near Mitchelstown, Co Cork.

It's understood, however, that investigators are aware of petty disagreements between the brothers relating to issues surrounding income from their wood-cutting business and, separately, the refusal by oldest brother William to allow middle brother Paddy to graze animals on the holding.

Both William and Johnny had traditionally raised suckler calves on the farm and were, at the time of their deaths, watching cattle prices with a view to selling 18 calves at the mart in Fermoy on March 2 or March 9.

It is further understood Willie had resisted a suggestion by younger brother Paddy that he be allowed to graze cattle of his own on the holding.

Gardaí are also aware of claims there may have been a dispute between the brothers relating to William taking on some of Paddy's customers in the wood-cutting business when Paddy suffered a stroke last year.

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"The fact is we may never know what exactly caused the rows that led to the deaths of these three brothers," a source told the Sunday World.

"They were very close, they worked closely together their whole lives and apparently did so without major incident until now.

"Something sparked this and it may be that the three of them have taken the knowledge of what that spark was with them to their graves."

Gardaí were alerted to the tragedy at the farm in Curraghgorm at 9.30pm on Thursday night after Paddy's daughter Elaine and her mother Stephanie, Paddy's ex-wife, became concerned when he failed to return to her home at Linden Hill.

The mother and daughter travelled to Curraghgorm and found Paddy Hennessy lying dead with severe head injuries in a yard 200 metres from the farmhouse.

Initially, when gardaí arrived at the property they believed Paddy had died as a result of a shotgun blast to the head and the Armed Support Unit and negotiators were called in as gardaí feared they could be dealing with a barricade situation.

After the Armed Support Unit cleared the house, a full search of the property was carried out leading to the discovery of oldest brother William's remains in the shed.


Garda Technical team arrives at the farm where the bodies of two brothers in their 60s were discovered.

Garda Technical team arrives at the farm where the bodies of two brothers in their 60s were discovered.

Garda Technical team arrives at the farm where the bodies of two brothers in their 60s were discovered.

He had suffered a massive trauma to the back of his head and the murder weapon, a wood-splitting axe, was by his body. Due to the severity of his injuries, gardaí were unable to identify the deceased as William.

Gardaí established that one of the brothers remained unaccounted for, and while Johnny Hennessy's red Toyota Corolla van was missing, gardaí did not yet know whether it was Johnny or William they were searching for.

An alert was issued with the public warned not to approach the vehicle.

Within a short time of the alert being made public, gardaí discovered the van abandoned near St Joseph's Church in nearby Killacluig. Dog units and air support were called in to help with the search and a short time later Johnny Hennessy's body was spotted in the River Funcheon by the Air Support Unit.

Yesterday one local in Killacluig said she was still stunned that the Hennessy brothers died in such a fashion.

"I knew Paddy quite well from the bingo," she said.

"He was a lovely man. Very quiet but if you got talking to him you'd be talking to him for the evening.

"You'd see Willie driving by or cycling and he'd give you a wave but you'd rarely see Johnny…he was the quietest of the three."

A close friend of William, who lives in Mitchelstown, yesterday told how he had been up on the farm with all three brothers just last week.

"All they had was 16 or 17 acres and the three of them worked together on it all their lives," he said.

"William was a real obliging kind of a fella who loved the wood business and raising the suckie calves with Johnny.

"They helped each other out … when William was sick last year Johnny looked after him and William did the same when Paddy had the stroke. "This thing is a bolt out of the blue.

"I was out there on the farm with the three of them only last week and there wasn't a problem.


Garda forensics fly a drone near the farm.

Garda forensics fly a drone near the farm.

Garda forensics fly a drone near the farm.

"Look, I've no doubt they had their own family business and no-one knows what goes on behind closed doors.

"People are blaming all sorts of things for this … but I didn't see anything that could cause something like this between the three of them.

"Now people are saying it was mental health. Of course it was mental health … Johnny was one of the hardiest men you'd ever meet but, sane or insane, it could be only a hairline crack that could cause something like this."

Johnny Hennessy won the over-55s Munster Handball Championship playing out Galbally Handball Club last year.

A member of the club yesterday told the Sunday World both Johnny and Paddy had played at the club for a number of years until the advent of the pandemic - describing both as excellent hand-ballers.

Officers investigating the brothers' killings will speak with their GPs in the coming days while their phones are being examined as part of the ongoing probe.

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