A MAN arrested by gardai investigating the brutal murders of two elderly brothers at their modest home had been recently released from prison.
Relatives said that Jack Blaine, who would have celebrated his 70th birthday yesterday, and his brother Tom (68) were killed for less than €200.
Officers made an arrest yesterday evening as they tried to establish the motive for the savage beatings.
The brothers were found dead at their two-storey home, a few metres away from the constituency office of Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the centre of Castlebar, Co Mayo.
A clearly shocked Mr Kenny, who knew both men, described the killings as "an act of savagery".
Gardai detained the suspect, who is in his mid-20s, yesterday evening and he was taken for questioning to the local station.
He can be held without charge for up to 24 hours under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
A care worker who called to the house at 7am found Tom's body in a pool of blood in a bedroom while Jack's body was discovered at the back of the house. The worker was said to be "absolutely distraught" at the deaths.
A CCTV camera has a 'perfect view' of the front of the house and it is understood the killer will have been caught on camera.
Gardai think Jack attempted to escape after his brother had been savagely assaulted with a blunt instrument – but he met a similar fate shortly afterwards.
A post-mortem examination on the two bodies got under way last night at Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar.
State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy is expected to conclude that both men died from blunt-force trauma as a result of the beating they received. The two victims had head injuries.
Throughout the day gardai studied CCTV footage in the area and following further inquiries last night decided to arrest the suspect.
Gardai said it was not yet clear whether robbery was the motive for the attack.
They had lived a frugal existence in their small home since returning to this country from England, and were looked after by care staff and neighbours.
Their cousin, Paul Dunne, who regularly checked on them, said they would have had less than €200 between them.
"That's all they would have had. If they wanted money, Jack would have gone to the bank but people always thought because they were two old men living alone that they might have had money, but they didn't.
"These two boys were real gentlemen. Jack was partly blind, deaf and had a speech impediment and Tom never left the house and suffered with psychiatric issues. These are the people who were killed, killed by a coward or cowards."
Jack, he said, had survived a concrete staircase collapse on a building site in the 1970s and had lost his toes after being trapped for several hours.
Mr Dunne said Jack had been attacked two months ago outside his home. The injury from the attack meant he 'shuffled' along the streets of Castlebar, going from pub to pub for coffees and soft drinks.
"When Jack was attacked, they urinated on him but he didn't give a statement to the guards because a court would make a fool of a man who was half-blind and half-deaf," he said.
He said he wanted people in Ireland to know his cousins were "decent honest people".
"Tom rarely left the house and Jack could be seen shuffling around the town, heading out for a bag of chips around 5pm," he said. "It's a disgrace that two old men can't be safe in their own homes."
Garda forensic experts sealed off New Antrim Street where the murders took place. Outside the house, spots of blood on the pavement were marked and samples taken.
Home help worker Helen Maloney, who found the brothers, had been caring for them for several years. "She was greeted by the most awful scene imaginable," said one friend.
"Helen is more than a care worker. She loved Tom and Jack. She is absolutely distraught."
One of the last people to see Jack Blaine alive was John Ralph, manager of Rocky's Bar, where the pensioner called for his regular 'top-up' – a cup of coffee. "He was just a quiet lovely gentleman, and wouldn't harm a fly," said Mr Ralph.
Neighbours said the men rarely locked their front door, although marks could be seen on it yesterday, suggesting it had been forced.
"There was a lot of talk that the brothers had money kept in the house and that is the sort of talk that is picked up by criminals," said one local.
The incident has stunned the community of Castlebar.
Kitty Sloyan (92), who runs a pub a few metres from the murder scene, said: "Years ago, Jack would have a Guinness but in recent times he would call in for a glass of orange. I knew all the family. It's so hard to believe."
Superintendent David Taylor appealed for members of the public who were in the New Antrim Street area between 9pm on Tuesday and 7am on Wednesday to come forward.
An incident room has been set up in Castlebar garda station and can be contacted on 094 9022222.