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'A lot of unanswered questions': No clear motive behind Kerry murder-suicide, gardaí say

Gardaí are appealing to members of the community to assist them in their investigation.

Updated Sep 8th 2021, 5:50 PM

GARDAÍ ARE APPEALING to a community in Kerry to assist them in their investigation into the deaths of three people at a house yesterday, as they work to establish a motive for the suspected murder-suicide. 

The bodies of Eileen O’Sullivan (56) and her 24-year-old son Jamie were found inside their home in Ballyreehan, close of the village of Lixnaw.

Eileen’s partner Maurice O’Sullivan (63) was found outside at the rear boundary of the house. All three had sustained gunshot wounds and a legally-held firearm was found in close proximity to the body of Maurice O’Sullivan. 

It’s suspected the older man shot and killed his partner and her son before turning the gun on himself. The bodies of Eileen and Jamie were found in separate bedrooms in the house. Maurice O’Sullivan’s body was located in a difficult-to-access area to the rear of the property; local firefighters were called in this afternoon to recover his remains.

Superintendent Paul Kennedy of Listowel garda station said this afternoon that a neighbour and friend of the family had discovered the bodies and contacted gardaí at around 8.30pm yesterday.

Sources said they believed the shootings had taken place much earlier that day – possibly early in the morning.

Gardaí are not looking for anyone else in connection with this incident, Kennedy said. 

“A family liaison officer has been appointed to the extended families of the deceased and An Garda Síochána will support the families during this personal tragedy for them.

“An Garda Síochána is also appealing for privacy for the families at this time.”

Superintendent Kennedy described the family as well-regarded and private.

The community had been hit hard by the developments of the last 24 hours, he said. “Obviously in a close-knit community of this nature it is impacting on them profusely.”

Investigators have “a lot of unanswered questions,” he said.

Gardaí have not established a motive and are appealing for anyone with information to contact gardaí “regardless of how insignificant” it may seem.

Investigation 

The house is some 13km from the town of Listowel, located along a rural laneway. Gardaí from the town this morning sealed off the scene for initial forensic tests.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster arrived at the scene at lunchtime. 

The bodies have now been removed to the morgue at University Hospital Kerry, where post-mortems will take place.

Preliminary findings from today’s examinations are that all three died as a result of gunshot wounds, gardaí said.

Initial door-to-door inquiries have been made by local gardaí in the area today.

Lixnaw bodies 004 The bodies of the deceased were removed from the scene earlier today. Source: Eamonn Farrell

‘A terrible tragedy’

Neighbours largely declined to speak to the media on the record earlier today, but some told reporters of their shock at what had happened and expressed their sympathies for the wider families of the deceased. 

Local parish priest Fr Anthony O’Sullivan told Newstalk Breakfast that there was a sense of “numbness” and “disbelief” at what has happened.

“Personally, I feel the same way – numb – words fail me to comprehend it, to express how I feel about what has happened.”

Local Fianna Fáil councillor and Mayor of Kerry Jimmy Moloney described the news as “really upsetting and a terrible tragedy”. 

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“There was a real sense of shock and sadness in the area this morning and last night when the news broke,” he said. 

“It’s something that’s so hard to wrap your head around. You see things like this up and down the country but when it’s on your home patch it really affects you more.”

Moloney said he wanted to remind people that there is help if they are feeling isolated and advised them to call organisations like the Samaritans. 

“I want to offer all our sympathies to the wider family and neighbours and community in Lixnaw, they have our support at this time.”

Source: Niall O'Connor/The Journal

Speaking this afternoon, Minister for Education Normal Foley, who is  a TD for Kerry said:

“It’s beyond any of our imaginations that such a sadness could be visited upon any family.”

She said she knows the community will rally to provide support to the wider families.

Justice Minister Heather Humphreys expressed her deepest sympathies to everyone impacted by the “truly awful” tragedy.

“The shock and devastation being felt by the family and the community is unimaginable. An Garda Síochána is engaging with the local community and will carry out a full investigation,” the minister said. 

- Reporting by Niall O’Connor in Kerry. Additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy and Daragh Brophy. 

Need help? Support is available:

Aware – 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
Samaritans – 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
Pieta House – 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
Teen-Line Ireland – 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 18)
Childline – 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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