Gardai search for weapon after farmer shoots brother-in-law and then hangs himself
Published 23/02/2012 | 05:00
POST MORTEM examinations were taking place today on the bodies of George Rothwell (71) and his brother-in-law Michael Jordan (51) whose bodies were found in Carlow after a dramatic fatal showdown over land.
Gardai suspect that the in-laws and neighbouring farmers exchanged shots – Mr Rothwell was fatally injured and Mr Jordan subsequently hanged himself.
Gardai were conducting searches of the land surrounding the farms today. They have located one of the two legally held shotguns belonging to the men but not the other one.
The body of Mr Rothwell was found in the downstairs living area of his substantial farmhouse near Bagnelstown, Co Carlow yesterday after firefighters were called to a blaze at 4am.
Hours later on an adjoining farm, his brother-in-law Mr Jordan was found hanging in a shed.
Detectives are investigating if there was an exchange of fire before Mr Rothwell was killed.
Deputy state pathologist Michael Curtis was carrying out the post mortem examinations at Naas General Hospital.
Members of two church communities gathered in mourning last night, while friends comforted Mr Jordan's wife Hilda, who was Mr Rothwell's sister.
Bachelor Mr Rothwell, an award-winning cattle breeder and well-known local musician, was a member of the Church of Ireland, while Mr Jordan was Catholic. A scheduled Ash Wednesday service last night became an impromptu prayer meeting to mourn the deceased.
The men had seemingly enjoyed a close relationship over the years, and were recently seen together at social and farming events.
However, a dispute over land may have fuelled yesterday's tragic events. It is believed that Mr Jordan wanted Mr Rothwell to hand over control of a portion of land at the farm.
The full extent of the horror was revealed after firefighters received reports of a fire at Ballycormac House just outside of Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, early yesterday morning.
Plumes of smoke were seen coming from the farm at around 3.30am and a 999 call was made. It is understood farm labourer Joe Wall, who worked for Mr Rothwell, first noticed the fire and alerted emergency services.
Five units of the fire brigade with 22 firefighters and officers attended the scene. They had to release horses and cattle from one shed which had caught fire. Another building containing hay and a third shed storing machinery also went on fire, and several livestock died in the blaze.
Waking up a few hours later on the adjoining farm, Mr Rothwell's sister, Hilda, became concerned as her husband, Mr Jordan, was missing.
She then contacted neighbours, who found Mr Jordan's body hanging in his shed to the rear of the couple's home.
The discovery of the bodies left the rural community of south Carlow deeply shocked.
Both men were well-known and were respected farmers in the area. Mr Rothwell had also been heavily involved in music, and travelled the country playing saxophone with a band called The Roulettes in his earlier years.
He had been managing the land near Bagenalstown since his father, Fred, died some years previously.
Staunch Church of Ireland man Fred Rothwell left his farmland to his only children, George and Hilda.
After her father's death, Hilda married Mr Jordan, a Catholic. The pair lived in a bungalow adjoining Mr Rothwell's farm.
It is understood that Mr Jordan was unhappy with Mr Rothwell for handling his wife's portion of the farm and wanted to take over the running of this land.
Farmers expressed trauma last night at the deaths of the two men.
IFA president John Bryan said: "Neighbours and the wider farming community are shocked at the news of this terrible tragedy, which has taken the lives of two highly respected farmers who were from well-known families. Both were well regarded in the local community."
Bagenalstown curate Fr Paddy Byrne said there was a "numbness" in the community.
"Words are deeply inadequate at this time," Fr Byrne last night.
And the local minister, the Reverend Charles McCollum, who knew Mr Rothwell, said it was a "tragedy of very great intensity".