An entire family was “wiped out” near Lixnaw, Co Kerry and the incident had a profound effect on the neighbours, relatives and the wider community, the inquest into the deaths of three people who died in September 2021, heard in Listowel, Co Kerry on Wednesday afternoon.
The bodies of 56-year-old Eileen O’Sullivan and her 24-year-old son Jamie were found in their bedrooms at the family home on the evening of September 7th. Both had died from a single shot gun wound fired at close range. Eileen had been shot twice and had defensive wounds, and she died from the wound to her chest.
Verdicts of unlawful killing were returned in the case of mother and son.
A verdict of suicide was returned by coroner Helen Lucey in the case of sheep farmer Mossie O’Sulllivan partner of Eileen and father of Jamie. The 63-year- old’s body was located outside the house lying face down in a drain. He had died also from a single shotgun wound.
A licenced firearm, licenced in his name, was found on the ground near the drain.
The inquest heard from several witnesses including neigbhours, medical personnel and gardai who conducted a search for Mossie and the missing shotgun.
Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster had visited the scene at Kilfeaney. In her evidence of the postmortem examination results, the pathologist said natural disease of drugs had not contributed. There was no alcohol involved and anit-depressants but only in the therapeutic range were found in the case of Eileen. These had not contributed to her death, the pathologist said.
She had been shot in the upper arm as well as her chest, from which she died. Her injuries showed she had tried to protect herself, Dr Bolster said.
There were no defence injuries in the case of Jamie.
Maurice, Mossie O’Sullivan had no evidence of natural disease or abnormality.
Neighbour Jane Joyce and the last person to speak with Eileen told how Eileen had been walking her dog on Monday, September 6th, and they chatted for about ten minutes.
“She was her normal, happy self, the same old Eileen,” Ms Joyce said in her deposition read by Inspector Tim O’Keffee.
Tadghie O’Leary, shift supervisor at Liebherr where Jamie worked as a fitter described the young man as “a quiet fellow who got on well with his co-workers”.
He finished his shift at midnight on Monday and the supervisor said he would see him at 3.30 pm on Tuesday. However, he did not turn up and this was unusual, Mr O’Leary said.
Mossie O’Sullivan would drive retired farmer Maurice McCarthy to his medical appointments, and they would speak on the phone a number of times a week. However, on Monday night September 6th when Mr McCarthy phoned him at around 9pm Mossie was “a small bit off, not in great form,” Mr McCarthy said in his deposition read to the court.
“It was like he was in an awful hurry to come off the phone,” he said.
The late Mossie said he was getting out of sheep as Jamie was going back to work.
Kathleen Harrington and her husband Tom lived alongside Eileen and her father and siblings for more than 40 years. Mossie had moved in about 30 years ago and Jamie was born. They were a very private and happy couple. Jamie was very quiet and very unassuming and very easy to get on with,” Ms Harrington said in her deposition.
The Harringtons and the O’Sulivans were very close, and she became concerned about 7pm when Eileen’s phone rang out. At the house she could see the door was open but was concerned she might wake Jamie if he were on shift work. Another woman drove in to buy honey from Eileen – The O’Sullivans kept beehives – and Ms Harrington looked in and could see Eileen dead in her bed and that Jamie was dead in his bedroom, and they went to the home of another neighbouring farmer John O’Mahony to get help.
John O’Mahony told how he had known Mossie since school days at Causeway Comprehensive.
Mossie used drive school buses then lorries until the economic crash; Eileen did not work after Jamie was born.
Mossie had told him some time back he was getting out of some of the ewes and on Sunday evening he rang him, and they spoke for an hour.
“He was going on about his stomach and saying if he had to go to hospital who would mind his sheep,” Mr O’Mahony said in his deposition read to the court by Insp O’Keeffe.
Mr O’Mahony told how Mossie would always show him the projects Jamie worked on. “Mossie and Eileen were very fond and proud of Jamie,” he said.
Coroner Helen Lucey brining in her verdicts of the deaths of all three on September 7th, 2021 – unlawful killing in the case of Eileen and Jamie and suicide in the case of Mossie.
It was a terrible tragedy and had “a colossal impact” on neighbours, family, friends and the wider community.
“An entire family (was)wiped out,” the coroner said, extending her sympathy to the relatives of all three.
She complemented gardai who had put themselves at risk.
After the inquest Eileen’s sisters, Mary and Margaret, in a statement delivered by their solicitor John Cashell said the past 20 months had been “traumatic and devastating” for them.
“We know we are not the only ones that greatly feel their loss,” they said thanking the wider community too.
No one had the right to take the life of another under any circumstances, they said.
In witnessing first hand the “shocking and devastating” impact this has had on the community had campaigned for change to the firearms licencing system.
This should include additional checks on the license holder and mental welfare checks. They had met with the Minister for Justice, Simon Harris two weeks ago on the issue.
Alternatively, the contact information for a range of mental health supports is available at mentalhealthireland.ie/get-support.
In the case of an emergency, or if you or someone you know is at risk of suicide or self-harm, dial 999/112.
This article was amended at 12.50pm on June 8th, 2023