Tuesday 20 February 2018

Depressed farmer worried about money before killing brother-in-law and himself

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

A FARMER was blasted through the window of his home by a shotgun legally-held by his brother-in-law in a tragic case of murder-suicide.

Evidence in the inquest – which rocked the close-knit Co Carlow community of Bagenalstown – found there was "very strong" evidence that Michael Jordan (52) had shot his wife's brother George Rothwell (68) on February 22, 2012.

It appeared Mr Jordan had first set Mr Rothwell's haybarns alight, as evidence was given at the inquest at Carlow Courthouse that Mr Rothwell had dialled '999' at 3.18am.

There were no indications the bachelor was injured at that point, as his only concerns appeared to be for the livestock in his shed, as he urged emergency services to respond swiftly to his haybarn fire.

Yet, just after 3.30am, Mr Rothwell was discovered by emergency services lying dead in the blood-splattered kitchen of the two-storey farmhouse, Ballycormac House, after being hit four times by a shotgun.

Several hours later his brother-in-law and neighbour, Mr Jordan, was found by neighbours hanging in a shed at the rear of his neighbouring farm, with nine spent cartridges and box of matches in his pockets.

George Rothwell
George Rothwell
Michael Jordan
Hilda Jordan at Carlow Coroners Court

Key forensic evidence was given that Mr Jordan had gunshot residue on his face and hands.

Michael Hogan, station officer at Bagenalsown Fire Brigade, described finding Mr Rothwell lying on blood-splattered kitchen floor, with a severe head wound, and a double-barrelled shotgun cracked open against his legs with two spent cartridges.

Hilda Jordan, the wife of Michael Jordan and sister of Mr Rothwell, told how both men had often helped each other and were frequently discussing farming issues.

Mrs Jordan told how her husband had suffered "a little from depression and nerves", and would not lend his shotgun to anyone.

There was no direct evidence provided to the inquest on a possible motive for the tragedy, but Mrs Jordan told how her husband had been "worried about money", although she had reassured him there was no need to be.

MISSING

Gardai discovered Mr Jordan's legally held shotgun for shooting vermin was missing from its usual storage spot under the spare bed.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis found Mr Rothwell died from multiple gunshot wounds, after being struck four times by a shotgun.

He found Mr Jordan had died as a result of hanging, and there was no indication anyone else was involved. Multiple spent shotgun cartridges were in his pockets, he noted.

Ballistics expert Detective Garda Ronan Lawlor told how a hole in the Mr Rothwell's window in the kitchen was consistent with shotgun being blasted through from the yard. He described further damage to the house from several shotgun blasts, with blood on the dividing door from the scullery into the kitchen.

Det Gda Lawlor found the shotgun cartridges from Mr Jordan were consistent with the shot sized injured to Mr Rothwell and around the house.

He said there was "nothing to indicate" Mr Rothwell's gun had been fired.

The coroner highlighted the evidence of Claire Greaney, a forensic scientist at the State Laboratory as key, as she found there was firearms residue on Mr Jordan's hands and face. She stated there was "very strong support" that Mr Jordan had shot Mr Rothwell.

Supt Gerry Redmond said there had been a "thorough" investigation into the deaths, and Sgt Martin O'Halloran had personally known and identified Mr Rothwell's voice on the emergency call.

The inquest heard the DPP felt there was no further matter to pursue in this investigation.

It took the jury a matter of minutes to pass a verdict of unlawful killing in the case of Mr Rothwell, and suicide in the death of Mr Jordan.

Coroner Dr Brendan Doyle said it was one of the "most terrible cases" he had come across, and the person left behind, Mrs Jordan, had "shown great courage".

Irish Independent

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