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Sunday 21 September 2014

B&B killer's 'head bursting' in days before tragedy, inquest told

Published 07/03/2014 | 02:30

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Gardai pictured outside the Stonehaven B&B on Centaur street in Carlow where the bodies of John Deegan and Deirdre Keenan were found
Gardai pictured outside the Stonehaven B&B on Centaur street in Carlow where the bodies of John Deegan and Deirdre Keenan were found
Deirdre Keenan
Deirdre Keenan

THE grieving sister of a man who killed a mother of six before taking his own life has said he was a "man with a good heart" who was "not the murderer he was painted to be" in the wake of the tragedy.

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John Deegan (53), from Lumcloon, near Cloghan, Co Offaly, killed partner Deirdre Keenan (51), from Cos na Feadain, Naas, Co Kildare, before taking his own life.

The couple – who had been together about six months – died during a weekend away in Carlow.

Both had previously been married but Mr Deegan had been officially separated eight months before his death after his marriage of 26 years ended. Ms Keenan's marriage had broken up but she was still legally married.

Their bodies were discovered in the Stonehaven B&B on Centaur Street in Carlow town on February 25, 2013. Both had "catastrophic head injuries" and their deaths were caused by a gunshot wound, a joint inquest heard yesterday.

Coroner Brendan Doyle heard Mr Deegan was a father of two who worked as a digger driver with the OPW but had been on sick leave at the time of his death.

Afterwards, Ms Keenan's brother Laurence McGarr said there was nothing that could be said of his sister's death, asking: "What can we say?"

Mr Deegan's sister Mary Ann Molloy told the Irish Independent it had been a terrible tragedy and said she had known Deirdre, who was a "very nice woman".

She said her brother had a "good heart" and was a "hard-working, honest Christian who had always gone to Mass every Sunday".

"He is not the murderer he was painted to be," she insisted, adding that much had been made of him keeping a gun in his car – however, she said this was a "Deegan thing", explaining that her brother came from "four generations of hunters" who always had a gun nearby.

In the inquest, Ms Molloy said her brother had been receiving treatment for depression for many years.

Just days before the tragic incident, he had called to see her and told her that his "head was bursting".

Ms Molloy became emotional in the witness box as her deposition was read aloud, in which she said: "I can't believe this tragedy has happened. It's so out of character for John. I cannot believe he took Deirdre's life, as well as his own."

Cleaner Elizabeth Byrne was the first to raise the alarm, having let herself into the B&B that Monday afternoon. She discovered the body of Mr Deegan, clad only in boxer shorts, leaning backwards on the couch.

She "didn't like the colour of him" and went straight out to tell John Clerkin, owner of the B&B, who was in his public house directly across the street.

Mr Clerkin told the inquest how he had first met the couple on the Saturday when he showed them the B&B.

On the Sunday night, they'd had a "good few drinks" and Mr Clerkin served them a brandy and port before they went back to the B&B. There was "no arguing" between them, he recalled.

After being alerted the following day, he told how "the man from Offaly" was sitting on the couch and "half his head was gone".

He went upstairs and saw the woman lying face down on the bed and alerted gardai.

The jury returned a verdict of suicide for Mr Deegan and unlawful killing for Ms Keenan and extended their sympathies to both families.

Irish Independent

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