Family tragedy Gardaí investigating if suspected murder-suicide in Cork was sparked by land row
Gardaí are investigating whether the fatal shooting of a father and his two adult sons was a double murder-suicide sparked by a bitter row about a family will.
The shooting took place near a farm outside Kanturk in north Cork shortly before 7am and is understood to have erupted following a disagreement over an inheritance involving local farmland.
The tragedy claimed the lives of Timothy 'Tadhg' O'Sullivan (59), and his sons Mark (25) and Diarmuid (23).
One young man apparently armed himself with a rifle following the dispute and fatally wounded his brother.
Both men were university students.
When their father apparently desperately intervened to try to prevent further bloodshed, further shots were fired. Tadhg O'Sullivan's wife Ann, who is in her 60s, managed to escape the house outside Assolas, between Castlemagner and Kanturk, and ran to a neighbour's house to raise the alarm.
She is understood to have been battling serious health issues over recent times.
Mrs O'Sullivan, who did not have a mobile phone, had to run some distance to raise the alarm with Mallow and Kanturk gardaí.
The traumatised mother was being comforted last night by relatives and friends.
Her family has appealed for privacy on her behalf.
Gardaí rushed to the scene supported by armed units shortly after 7am. The Regional Armed Support Unit and the elite Emergency Response Unit were deployed.
The area was sealed off with a double security cordon as officers prevented all traffic from entering an area 1km around the isolated farmyard property, which is located down a long laneway off the Castlemagner-Kanturk road.
Garda negotiators were unable to make contact with anyone in the property for more than five hours.
A strict day-long media black-out was imposed by gardaí as they dealt with the incident.
Garda patrols and dog handler units were assisting with the operation. Paramedic units were also on standby at the scene.
Both the Garda and Irish Coast Guard helicopters were deployed to the scene in support.
The Coast Guard helicopter landed on the local Castlemagner GAA field which was used as an operations base.
When armed members of the elite Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU) eventually entered the property at 1pm, Mark O'Sullivan was found with fatal gunshot injuries in a bedroom.
He was the only person found in the house and a massive search of the area was organised.
The Garda helicopter helped guide searchers to the bodies of Tadhg and Diarmuid O'Sullivan a short distance away, close to a historic old fort.
Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.
It is understood gardaí recovered three legally held firearms from the various scenes involved - two rifles and a shotgun.
A number of cartridges were also recovered.
Superintendent Adrian Gamble confirmed a criminal investigation is under way but officers are not looking for anyone else in respect of their inquiry.
The three men died from gunshot wounds.
"We would appeal for witnesses or anyone with information to come forward and contact Mallow garda station on (022) 31450," he said.
Supt Gamble declined to comment further until gardaí had received the report of the State Pathologist and forensic officers.
Another garda described the scene as "absolutely heartbreaking - the worst I have had to deal with in over 20 years".
Counselling will be offered to the officers who attended the various locations to help them deal with the trauma.
The area remains sealed off pending a full forensic examination by Garda Technical Bureau staff.
Detectives requested the assistance of the State Pathologist and full post-mortem examinations will be conducted at Cork University Hospital (CUH) today.
Gardaí also began door-to-door inquiries throughout the area to determine if anyone had heard or seen anything unusual in the 24 hours before the horrific incident.
One local source said there had been tensions between the two young brothers over an inheritance that was to be resolved over the coming months.
Kanturk and Castlemagner locals expressed deep shock at the tragedy in the quiet farming community.
Tadhg O'Sullivan worked in a Charleville garage and was a well respected member of the Castlemagner community.
His eldest son, Mark, recently completed his master's degree at university.
He was studying to be a solicitor and was known in Castlemagner for his love of sport and travel.
Diarmuid was studying to qualify as an accountant.
The brothers attended University of Limerick and University College Cork.