A MAN apparently shot dead his girlfriend and then took his own life – hours after the couple had been happily socialising together.
Last night gardai were trying to piece together the final moments of the couple, whose bodies were found in separate rooms in a guesthouse in Carlow town.
A shotgun, which was found beside the man’s body, was taken away for ballistic examination by members of the garda technical bureau.
The shotgun was legally held by the man suspected of carrying out the shootings.
The dead man, who was 53, was named locally as John Deegan. It is understood he is from outside Cloghan, near Birr, Co Offaly.
The 51-year-old woman was named as Deirdre Keenan, who was from Naas, Co Kildare.
Both were separated from their partners and were understood to have been in a relationship for the past six months.
Gardai said last night that they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.
But officers said they had not yet established a motive for the tragic shootings.
Ms Keenan is the mother of six grown-up children, including triplets.
Last night her family said they were “in a state of shock”.
“I’ve only just found out it was Deirdre’s body that they found,” her relative David Keenan told the Irish Independent. “It’s absolutely shocking. The family are all together and are holding a meeting at the moment.
That’s all I can say – we just can’t believe it.”
The pair told friends last week they were going away for a few days’ break in Co Wexford.
After spending a couple of nights in Wexford they booked into a guesthouse in Carlow town at the weekend, in Carlow town at the weekend, and then moved to the Stonehaven bed and breakfast premises at Centaur Street on Saturday night.
The couple socialised in several pubs around the town during the course of the weekend. One local saw them in Nancy Whiskey's pub where the woman was playing the gambler machine and seemed "in good form".
They were out in the town on Sunday night and were last seen alive at around 1am yesterday.
But 12 hours later their bodies were found in the guesthouse – the woman was in an upstairs bedroom, while the man was discovered lying in another room downstairs with the shotgun lying nearby. Both had been shot in the head.
Gardai are now trying to determine if the shotgun had been owned by Mr Deegan.
The bodies remained at the scene throughout the afternoon and evening while forensic officers examined the guesthouse.
They were removed last night after an initial examination by Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis and taken to Naas General Hospital where post-mortem examinations will be carried out today.
Mr Deegan is originally from Cadamstown, Co Offaly where local publican Jim Dempsey said people were just coming to terms with the tragedy.
"I only got a phonecall about it a while ago. I know very little about it," he said.
"God help them, it is an awful sad thing," Mr Dempsey said.
The self-catering guesthouse in Carlow where the shootings happened is owned by the Clerkin family.
Della Clerkin (88) manages the accommodation while her sons, Thomas and John, run the Stonehaven pub across the road. Mrs Clerkin is understood to have been left "stressed" by the incident. Her sons declined to comment last night.
The owners of the guesthouse request guests to check out by early afternoon and residents are given a key to allow themselves into the premises late at night.
Gardai are now looking at CCTV footage taken from cameras in the area as they piece together the movements of the couple over the weekend and establish who had been in their company in their final hours.
The couple had been socialising in nearby Ewing's pub on Saturday and had requested accommodation there but it was full. They then left and returned to the pub again later.
They were also spotted having a drink in the Stonehaven.
A black van with an Offaly registration plate was removed from the street outside the guesthouse and taken away for technical examination.
Black blinds were pulled down on the windows and door of the Stonehaven pub as two black hearses pulled up to remove the bodies, which had been placed in simple wooden coffins.
Superintendent Gerry Redmond, from Carlow, appealed to anyone who was in the Centaur Street area of the town and might have seen anything suspicious between 10pm on Sunday and 1.30pm yesterday to contact them at the local station.