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Thursday 18 September 2014

Inquest of tragic murder-suicide couple on weekend away heard

Published 06/03/2014 | 18:58

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Gardai pictured outside the Stonehaven B&B on Centaur street in Carlow where the two bodies were found
Gardai pictured outside the Stonehaven B&B on Centaur street in Carlow where the two bodies were found

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 both been together about six months - died during a weekend away in Carlow.

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 yesterday heard.

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.

His sister Mary Ann Molloy said he 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."

She asked if he was taking his medication for depression and he said he was and when she asked if he had been drinking, he replied that he had "a couple."

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 alert, 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. They were happy with it and told him they had spent the previous night at another establishment up the street but that it was more expensive.

On the Sunday, the man had asked Mr Clerkin's mother if they could stay on a second night and she agreed they could.

That 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.

The next day, on being informed of the situation by Ms Byrne, he went over to the B&B and saw "the man from Offaly" sitting on the couch and "half his head was gone."

He went upstairs and saw the woman lying face down on the bed and then left, locking the door behind him, to inform the gardai.

Garda David Burke of Carlow station told the inquest he found the man seated with a gun lodged between his legs while Garda Kelly O'Callaghan noted that both had fatal wounds to the head.

Mr Deegan's body was identified to the Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis by his sister, Mary Ann Molly while Ms Keenan was identified by her brother, Laurence McGarr.

Dr Curtis said he had inspected the scene and found a man seated in an armchair dressed in his underpants with a single-barrelled shotgun resting on his right leg.

There was a "catastrophic exit wound to the top of the head," he said.

Upstairs, he found the body of a heavily built middle-aged woman lying on a blood-stained bed and she too had suffered a "catastrophic" wound to the head.

He found death in each case had been instantaneous and had occurred from a single gunshot wound to the head.

Blood alcohol levels had been "high" in the case of Ms Keenan and "modest" in the case of Mr Deegan with no drugs present in either.

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

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

 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" who had always spoken highly of her children.

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.

Nicola Anderson

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