Kanturk inquest: Father and son wrote letters three days before killing Mark O'Sullivan 

Kanturk inquest: Father and son wrote letters three days before killing Mark O'Sullivan 

Yesterday, the coroner, Dr Michael Kennedy (pictured), heard that Mark O’Sullivan told a friend that he was afraid his brother and father would kill him and make his death look like suicide. Pic: Larry Cummins 

TADG and Diarmuid O’Sullivan wrote two letters to Anne O’Sullivan three days before killing Mark O’Sullivan at the family home near Kanturk, before then killing themselves.

An inquest into the deaths of Mark, Tadg, and Diarmuid was held today in Mallow. Anne died in April this year, at the age of 61, after battling cancer and having been spared death last October.

today, the coroner, Dr Michael Kennedy, heard that Mark O’Sullivan told a friend that he was afraid his brother and father would kill him and make his death look like suicide.

Mark was found dead in his room at the family home in Raheen, Assolas, near Kanturk, on October 26 last year, after being shot seven times.

The inquest heard from assistant State pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster that Mark had tried to defend himself from the shots. She said his death would have been rapid.

His father Tadg and brother Diarmuid died from self-inflected gunshot wounds some time later, 500m from the family home, in a field. The two letters they had written to Anne were found in clothing on both men. The contents of the letters were not read out at today’s inquest.

Both letters were dated October 23, three days before the deaths.

The jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing today in the case of Mark, and ruled that Tadg and Diarmuid had taken their own lives.

It is believed Diarmuid took his life before Tadg.

The inquest heard that Mark died from traumatic brain injury with extensive lacerations to the lungs and liver, due to multiple gunshot wounds. The cause of death in the cases of both Diarmuid and Tadg was traumatic brain injury due to a gunshot wound.

Tadg, Mark and Diarmuid O’Sullivan who died in a shooting in a remote part of Kanturk in North Cork. Picture: Gardaí
Tadg, Mark and Diarmuid O’Sullivan who died in a shooting in a remote part of Kanturk in North Cork. Picture: Gardaí

The inquest heard there was no presence of alcohol or drugs in any of the three men’s systems.

STATEMENT BY MARK'S FRIEND

A statement made to gardaí by Mark’s friend Claragh Lucey was read into evidence at the inquest.

Mark had told her of a row in the family home over a will regarding the land at Assolas, which he and Diarmuid’s mother Anne had inherited from her parents. The land was being rented to a farmer. Their father Tadg also had inherited land from his family, and the couple had never put the holdings into joint ownership. The lands had not become an issue until Anne received a terminal cancer diagnosis on February 28 last year.

Diarmuid had wanted to inherit the majority of the land at Assolas, but Anne had wanted to split the holding between both sons. Tadg was on Diarmuid’s side in the row, the inquest heard.

In one row about the land, Diarmuid said Mark was lazy and that he did nothing to deserve the land inheritance.

Tension in the house resulted in Mark suffering stomach issues, according to statements read into the record made by friends of his.

He had also lost weight, and his hair was falling out. He had attended hospital in relation to bowel problems.

Claragh Lucey confirmed to the inquest that Mark had told her on October 10 last year that he was afraid of Diarmuid and Tadg and feared that they would kill him in such a way it would look like suicide. She stressed that he was very clear he was not suicidal.

She added: “He had no suicidal ideation.” Just over two weeks before the incident, Anne O’Sullivan’s cousin Louise Sherlock called to the home to tend to a surgical wound for Anne.

She told gardaí of an incident with Diarmuid and Tadg as she tried to get into the house.

She said Tadg told her that “this will be all over” in a couple of weeks, adding that there would be “carnage”. They asked her to try to reason with Anne about the will.

FAMILY FRIEND

The inquest heard that Anne and Mark had stayed in Louise Sherlock’s home for two weeks before returning to the family home on October 25.

 Witness Louise Sherlock at Mallow court.
Witness Louise Sherlock at Mallow court.

While they were staying with the Sherlocks, Mark told Ms Sherlock that he found it hard to sleep at home in the O’Sullivan house because of fear.

Ms Sherlock went to Kanturk gardaí on October 13 regarding the issues at the O’Sullivan home, and believed that Mark felt relieved by this.

She told gardaí that Anne and Mark had been upset and crying on October 25, when returning home to Raheen.

In statements made to gardaí about the shooting, Anne, who died earlier this year, said that her husband and son turned to her when she saw them shooting into Mark’s bedroom. One of them said to her: “There is your solicitor’s letter for you”, in reference to a solicitor’s letter sent to them while she and Mark were staying with Sherlocks.

She told gardaí that she screamed: “Oh my God what have you done?” at Tadg and Diarmuid. They fired shots again into Mark’s room.

CALL FOR HELP

The statement heard that Anne O’Sullivan had tried to make calls for help, but the landline and several other phones were destroyed.

She also tried to leave by car, but could not open the courtyard gate because a new lock had been placed on the gate without her knowledge.

 Witness Ann Cronin at court.
Witness Ann Cronin at court.

She had to flee to the nearby home of Jackie and Ann Cronin through a field, keeping close to a ditch to escape detection by her youngest son and husband. She was dressed in a dressing gown.

Ann Cronin told gardaí that she heard one gunshot while Anne O’Sullivan was in their house.

After the verdict was delivered by the six-person jury today, the coroner Dr Kennedy said the incident was “a terrible tragedy that was beyond comprehension”, adding that it was very “difficult to make sense of it”.

He said that normally after an inquest, he would offer his condolences to the bereaved family. But he said: “Here, the O’Sullivan home is now empty.” He expressed condolences to Louise Sherlock and her family, to Claragh Lucey, and to the local community. He also urged any family experiencing difficulties to seek help such as mediation and proper support.

The jury issued a recommendation following the inquest that protocols over third-party contacts to gardaí involving the safety of others, particularly in cases of firearms possession, be reviewed.

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