independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Man shot girlfriend before killing himself, inquest told

Ann McDermott, the mother of Sarah Regan (inset), at the inquest. Picture: David Walsh
Ann McDermott, the mother of Sarah Regan (inset), at the inquest. Picture: David Walsh

A construction worker shot his ex-girlfriend three times while she sat in her car in her pyjamas before he turned the gun on himself and took his own life, an inquest heard yesterday.

Robert Hartrey (45) from Mill Park, Grangemockler, Co Tipperary, travelled to Roscommon a few days before Valentine's Day two years ago on the pretext of retrieving clothes and other items from his former girlfriend Sarah Regan.

Ms Regan (30), of West View, Cloonfad, Co Roscommon, agreed to meet him at a nearby ghost estate on February 10, 2012.

Her mother, Ann McDermott, told the inquest she had last seen her daughter that evening when, as usual, Sarah had cooked dinner and taken it to her father.

The inquest heard that the 30-year-old later drove in her father's car to Spring Vale estate to meet her former boyfriend. Hartrey produced a shotgun and shot her dead while she sat in the car with the engine running.

State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said that Ms Regan was shot three times, twice in the head and once in the neck. She believed that the shot to the right side of the head instantly killed the woman, the second shot grazed her and that the shot to the neck would also have been fatal.

The inquest in Ballaghderreen heard that Hartrey then drove a short distance away to the car park of the national school in Cloonfad and shot himself in the head while seated in the car.

He had gotten a lift from Tipperary to Cloonfad earlier that evening from family friend Brigid Egan, who had cared for Hartrey's mother and knew all the family.

UPSET

She said that Robert Hartrey had asked her for a lift to Roscommon to retrieve items from his former girlfriend.

Hartrey had three children from a previous relationship and was upset that the relationship with Sarah Regan had broken up. The couple had moved from Tipperary to Cloonfad about seven months prior to their deaths, but Hartrey had returned home to Grangemockler about 11 weeks earlier after the relationship ended.

Ms Egan said that Robert Hartrey was "a different man" since he returned home. He had changed "big time" and had "not settled".

She agreed to drive him to Roscommon. He gave her money for petrol but she did not see him take anything into the car. She said she would not have driven him if she realised he had a shotgun.

The inquest heard that a long, narrow cardboard box, which had been strapped, was torn open and was found in the back seat of the car when Hartrey's body was found.

Ms Egan said that Hartrey took over the driving when they were close to Cloonfad as he did not want Sarah's family to know he was coming and he had arranged to meet her elsewhere.

A series of text messages had been exchanged between Hartrey and Sarah Regan while they were driving to Roscommon. Ms Egan got out to go and wait in a pub but went looking for Hartrey when he did not return and his phone rang out.

She said she was on the phone to Hartrey's mother when she found him in the school car park. She thought he had a can in his hand when she saw him sitting in the car and it was only when she opened the door that she saw the gun and realised he was dead.

The shotgun was cradled between Hartrey's legs pointing upwards.

The alarm was raised. Retired Sgt Tom O'Connor said that they knew the man had been in a relationship with Ms Regan so a number of gardai went searching for her.

They checked her home and her father's house as concern mounted for her safety. They expanded the search in Cloonfad and surrounding areas and eventually found her car in Spring Vale.

Roscommon Coroner, Desmond P O'Connor, said that it was very sad and traumatic for both families and that it was the first time such an incident had happened in his time.

"What occurred has no answer," he said. "The reality is that they were young people with the greater part of their lives ahead of them."

The jury found that both had died from gunshot wounds to the head. In Ms Regan's case they returned a verdict of unlawful death and a suicide verdict in Hartrey's case.

Sympathies were extended to both families.

John Fallon

Irish Independent

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