Friday 28 November 2014

Son bid mum goodbye and flew out . . . it would be for the last time

Cormac McQuinn and Mark O'Regan

Published 07/09/2013 | 05:00

Patricia and Oliver Kierans, from Bailieborough, Co Cavan.
Shane Kierans and his wife Tracey Owens Kierans.
Oliver "Ollie" Kierans Jnr, son of Patricia and Oliver Kierans
Julie Kierans
Gerard Kierans

SHANE Kierans packed his bags and said goodbye to his loved ones on Wednesday. As he left for Australia, he couldn't have known that just 24 hours later, his mother would be dead and his father in garda custody, accused of brutally killing her.

His siblings, Ollie, Gerard and Julie, had all already left Ireland for Australia in recent years and Shane was planning to join them, flying out this week to set down roots before being joined by his wife Tracey and their children.

But he never made it that far.

It's believed that he learned of his mother Patricia's tragic death during a stop-over midway through his journey when airport officials took him aside and broke the devastating news to him.

And as he remained in transit, his father Oliver Kierans was holed up in a Bailieborough pub wielding a shotgun and refusing to surrender to the heavily armed gardai who set up a ring of steel outside.

After that hellish 24 hours that has seen the Kierans family torn apart and a community left devastated, the estranged couple's children now face a long journey home to bury their beloved mother.

Oliver – also known as Ollie – works in construction and lives in Narellan, a suburb of Sydney in New South Wales, with his wife Helen and their three children. Gerard and Julie are also believed to be living in the same state and face a long journey home.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country slept as the slow horror was playing out in the small Co Cavan community as gardai ordered a media blackout on news from the town.

Patricia Kierans, originally from Belfast, was married to her husband Oliver for more than 30 years, having settled in his hometown, Bailieborough, when they wed.

She had left the family home in recent times, moving in with her sister, Mairead Murray, who lives in Cavan town.

FEAR

She had previously told local priest Fr Oliver O'Reilly that she was living in fear for her life.

Her departure left Oliver alone in their terraced house on the Drumbannon estate, maintaining his daily routine of walking to the Square Bar Pub to drink.

It's unclear what led Patricia to return to the house on Thursday, though locals said she had returned to pick up some clothes.

On Thursday evening, her sister Mairead raised the alarm when she could not contact Patricia and asked gardai to go to the family home.

Officers from Bailieborough's barracks instead first visited the Square Bar – just a couple of hundred metres from the local barracks – at about 7pm.

Mr Kierans had two pints there that evening and it's understood that when he saw the guards approaching, he took out a sawn-off shotgun and made for the pub's basement.

Staff and customers in the bar fled and gardai withdrew, sealing off all of the surrounding streets.

Just a short distance away, other officers called to the family home and forced their way through the door after knocks went unanswered.

They found Patricia's body in an upstairs room. She had sustained a brutal beating and had also suffered a gunshot wound.

Back in town, heavily armed gardai from the Regional response Unit and the Dublin-based Emergency Response Unit had arrived and secured a perimeter around the pub.

Trained negotiators were also dispatched from the capital and the town was put in complete lockdown.

While word quickly spread through the community that Mr Kierans was barricaded inside the Square Bar, the rest of the country went to bed last night oblivious to the drama that was unfolding.

At 9pm, gardai ordered a total media blackout in relation to the incident, perhaps fearing that radio and TV coverage of the siege would be picked up by Mr Kierans inside the pub.

Only a few online reports emerged in the course of the night, mostly through the Twitter and Facebook accounts of locals.

SHOUT

Mr Kierans emerged from the pub on a number of occasions over the ensuing 10 hours to shout at the gardai, and nearby residents were evacuated by officers wearing protective clothing and holding large armoured shields in the direction of the Square Bar.

Shortly after midnight, armed units were seen gathering across the road from the pub and onlookers were ordered to move a further 300 metres down the street where a new cordon was set up.

Mr Kierans surrendered peacefully at 3:20am, having fired no shots at the pub.

He exited through the back door before being seized by gardai and brought to the nearby station.

People in Bailieborough were yesterday coming to terms with Thursday's tragic events.

One tearful neighbour, a friend of Patricia's, told the Irish Independent: "She was the nicest person – the best you'd ever meet.

"Her family was her first priority," she added. "I've known Oliver's family all my life."

Fr O'Reilly, who revealed that Patricia had spent her final months fearing for her life, said: "I feel personally devastated as well as the larger community with what has happened."

A woman who answered Mairead Murray's phone said that the family would not be commenting on the tragic events of the last 24 hours, saying: "No one's talking to anybody. The family knows nothing yet."

Meanwhile, the couple's four children learned the horrific news and and are left to comfort each other on the other side of the world.

The siblings, aged from 22 to 33 years old, already have a wide network of friends and family in Australia.

Their cousin, Sharron Surplice, who lives in Wollongong in New South Wales, wrote on her Facebook page: "Still no words to describe the loss I'm feeling. RIP aunty."

Their father, who can be held for questioning for seven days, was last night under armed guard in Cavan hospital, having become ill in garda custody.

Irish Independent

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