Saturday 29 April 2017

Troubled auctioneer took pistol lessons before he shot himself

Collapse in the property market is blamed for tragedy

NIAMH O'DONOGHUE

A contributor to the television show The Apprentice took lessons on how to use a pistol -- before shooting himself dead during a practice session.

A coroner's court was told last week that the dead man shot himself because of business pressures and having to let staff go after the collapse of the property market.

Auctioneer Gerald Jacob featured in an episode of the reality TV show last autumn, where contestants had to transform two run-down properties and then improve their rental value on a very limited budget.

The houses had been supplied to the television production company by Jacob Walsh Estates, owned by Gerald Jacob, who tragically took his own life last September at a Co Kildare shooting range.

His parents, Gerry and Maeve Jacob, of Two-Mile-House, Naas, who have two other children, Henry and Judith, this week attended the Kildare County Coroner's inquest into their son's death.

The court heard, through the coroner's summary of the suicide letter found in Gerald's pocket, that he was finding the pressures of keeping his business afloat difficult and was burdened because he had recently let some staff go.

Maeve Jacob covered her ears as the pathologist's report was read out to her. The verdict of coroner Prof Denis Cusack was that, beyond reasonable doubt, the cause of death was self-killing.

He described the death as a tragedy and understood that the Jacobs may feel anger toward their son. "It seems he took his responsibilities very seriously. I understand that in these cases many people feel anger," he said.

In a heart-wrenching address to the court after both the coroner and gardai conveyed their sympathies to the family, Mrs Jacob told the court that she no longer felt anger toward her son.

She said that she was comforted that one of the men present had whispered prayers in her son's ear when they found him.

"I don't feel anger toward my son anymore. For a time, I wanted to wring his neck. My husband believes that Gerald was perhaps trying to do the best for everyone in doing what he did. I'm beginning to come round to that way of thinking.

"Although I am sorry that those men had to witness such a terrible thing, I will bring to my grave the comfort of knowing that he wasn't alone when he died," she added.

Giving evidence at the non-jury inquest, Tommy O'Brien, who is owner and chairman of Harbour House Shooting in Lougharbour, Athy, which has in about 100 members, said Gerald visited the range regularly.

"I told him he'd have to do a National Rifle Association (NRA) course. He sat this course over a day and came to the range once a month. He had a very good shot," he said.

"I fired his gun that day and was happy with its safety. There were no other people on the range. A shot rang out. I was alarmed that he fired a shot without me being there. I was surprised he fired a shot without my authorisation," he added.

He described how it seemed out of character for Gerald, who had been coming for lessons for a year, to take his own life.

"He seemed in very good form. There was no warning. He was so happy that day. It was a shock, a real shock."

Also giving evidence was Tommy's brother Eddie O'Brien, who was also on the shooting range that day.

"The chap went to the Port-a-loo. I got into the Jeep to take a call. We heard a shot and ricochet.

"When we found him, his head was backwards and his arms were hanging down. He had a head wound and his hands were still shaking," he added.

Detective Garda Dave O'Leary from the ballistics section of the Garda Technical Bureau said he examined the weapon on September 15, 2009. He said the blood-covered Browning semi-automatic pistol was generally in good working condition and was fired on purpose.

"It was in good condition and it had a safety mechanism. It had been deliberately cocked to discharge," he said.

Garda David McGrath of Athy garda station said he found Gerald's last will and testament in one of his pockets.

The coroner returned the documents found on Gerald's person by gardai, including his passport, to the family.

Sunday Independent

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