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Sunday 21 September 2014

Man called gardai before brother-in-law shot him dead before killing himself

Published 24/09/2013 | 17:00

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George Rothwell
George Rothwell called 999 before he was shot dead
Michael Jordan was found hanged in a shed

THE tragic final hours of two farmers killed in a shooting-suicide were pieced together at an inquest into their deaths today.

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The close-knit Co Carlow community of Bagenalstown was rocked after the deaths of Michael Jordan (52) and his brother-in-law George Rothwell (68), who lived on neighbouring farms, on February 22 last year.

The jury sitting at Carlow Courthouse passed a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Mr Rothwell, and suicide in the death of Mr Jordan.

The inquest heard evidence that Mr Rothwell had called '999' himself from his home, the large two-story Ballycormac House, just outside of Bagenalstown, in the early hours of February 22, asking them to come quickly as his haybarns were on fire with animals inside.

Hours later Mr Rothwell was discovered dead on his kitchen floor by firefighters, after being hit four times by shotgun blasts.

Neighbours then later discovered his Mr Jordan hanging in a shed at the back of his neighbouring property.

Nine spent cartridges were found in Mr Jordan's pockets along with a box of matches.

A key ballistics expert, Det Gda Ronan Lawlor, found the shotgun cartridges found on Mr Jordan were consistent with the shot size injury to Mr Rothwell and the damage around the house. The inquest heard the shotgun blasts and damage in Mr Rothwell's kitchen were consistent with a shotgun blast being fired through the window from outside the house.

Claire Greaney, a forensic scientist at the State Laboratory, found there was very strong support that Mr Jordan shot Mr Rothwell, and residue was found on his hands and face.

Coroner Dr Brendan Doyle said it was one of the "most terrible cases" he had come across, and the person left behind, Hilda Jordan - the wife of Mr Jordan and only sister of Mr Rothwell - had "shown great courage".

Mrs Jordan had told how her husband, Michael Jordan, had suffered from depression in the past and had worried about money despite reassurances there was no need.

She recalled how both Mr Jordan and her brother, Mr Rothwell, a bachelor, had often helped each other out, and they all had lunch together every Sunday "nearly religiously". Just days before, on Sunday, February 19, they had enjoyed lunch as usual and discussed farming issues, and there was nothing untoward.

They had also enjoyed a day out at Gowran races the previous Thursday.

The inquest heard the DPP was now taking no further action in the case.

Mrs Jordan had waked them side-by-side, as hundreds of members of the Catholic and Protestant communities came out to offer their respects to her.

People in the community of Bagenalstown recalled both men had often went to the mart together to look at sheep. Both men were known for their pride in rearing livestock.

Mr Rothwell was an award-winning sheep breeder and member of the Church of Ireland, whose musical talents were well-known locally. He had travelled Ireland and England with The Roulettes band during the showband era. He was a member of the Irish Farmers’ Association and was known for his meticulous upkeep of his farm.

Mr Jordan, who was Catholic, was also held in high esteem in the farming community, and friends have recalled he fond of training his sheep dogs.

Louise Hogan

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