'Shane built that house, it was to be a dream home but it has all come crashing down'
IT was to be the perfect family home, built by a father to provide his youngsters with an idyllic childhood.
But the Skeffingtons' large, detached house in rural Co Sligo became the scene of an unspeakable family tragedy as brother killed brother before taking his own life.
Shane Skeffington Snr and his wife Carmel returned from a Sunday afternoon excursion to find the lifeless body of nine-year-old Brandon at the top of the stairs.
Confusion turned to horror as they saw the stab wounds; minutes later, they discovered eldest son Shane Jnr in the shed behind the family home.
After stabbing his little brother, the 20-year-old had hanged himself.
The family had moved to the rural community of Banada near Tubbercurry just seven years earlier to give their young family the best upbringing possible.
Neighbour Gerry Meehan told how the family seemed close, and Brandon would often be seen playing with his siblings.
"They were a lovely family, lovely children. You would see them playing behind the house together.
"Shane built that home himself, a dream house and now it's come crashing down," he said.
Shane Jnr had been a troubled young man who had dabbled with drugs but nobody foresaw such a tragedy in the family.
The boys' parents and siblings, Sharon (15) and three-year-old Callum, are being comforted by relatives today.
The two boys were cousins of former Irish footballer Terry Phelan, their father Shane is a first cousin of the sports star.
Local councillor Jerry Lundy said the tragedy had left the entire community heartbroken.
"They are a lovely hard-working family, very well known, liked and respected. Shane build that beautiful family home for them a number of years ago.
"He was a great builder. They moved from Tubbercurry so the children would have the perfect childhood. It's just tragic," he said.
The family home remained sealed off yesterday as a technical examination was carried out. Behind the garda cordon, a children's slide and swing could be seen at the side of the house.
A muted air lay over the communities of Banada and Turlestrane as the terrible news sank in.
"The ambulance was at the house and I saw someone running from the shed back into the house. There was a lot of panic and then the helicopter was over the house. One ambulance is scary but to see two outside the house, we knew something was very wrong.
"We just feel helpless. We don't know what to do or what to think," said Pamela Frame.
In the village of Banada, one shocked local woman said: "When we first heard a little boy had died I thought immediately of a car accident or maybe a farming accident.
"You never think something like this will happen in your own community. Our hearts go out to the family. It's unbearable to think what they are going through."
Parents looking for ways to explain the deaths to their own children met with local principal Lorcan Brennan and staff from the three teacher Banada National School, along with the parish priest last night.
They were told that all necessary counselling services would be made available to Brandon's little classmates and other students.