Sunday 19 November 2017

Resentment over pints led to bizarre double murder

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

DOUBLE-KILLER Thomas Barrett claimed that he shot a father and son because they had stopped going for pints with him on Saturday nights. He also took offence after his friend, Denis Hanrahan, advised him to take care when he started dating a recently separated woman.

Barrett, 33, who was known as 'the Terminator', offered these petty slights to explain why he murdered Denis Hanrahan, 27, a farmer from north Kerry, and his father Michael, 60, on March 26, 2008.

Barrett was jailed for life at the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday. Psychiatrists had found that he was not insane.

Gardai and psychiatrists remain baffled as to what caused the usually quiet farmhand to don fatigues, pick up a pump-action shotgun, walk into the Hanrahans' home and shoot father and son.

Gardai who scoured his past for clues found an introverted and overly sensitive man -- but nothing to indicate that he would turn into a violent killer. The biggest complaint from ex-girlfriends was that he was overly possessive.

Barrett grew up the eldest of three children in Causeway, north Kerry. His school nickname was 'the Terminator', but this was an ironic joke as he was considered the most unlikely "killer" in the playground.

At Pallaskenry Agricultural College he met fellow student, Denis Hanrahan. Barrett didn't finish the course but he kept up contact with Denis as he worked at various agricultural jobs.

He came to regard the young man as his closest pal and regularly stayed at the Hanrahan family homestead, outside Moyvane village, from the late 1990s until 13 months before the murders.

At the pig-production factory in north Kerry where he worked for six years, Barrett was regarded as a good worker but his managers felt he needed close supervision.

"They had him down as a day dreamer; he would lose focus on what he was doing and would slip into a parallel universe. That's how they would have described him," said a source.

Barrett was quiet and reserved but he had relationships with women. He had two girlfriends of significance, even though the relationships lasted months, rather than years. Both women later told detectives that they found Barrett to be overly possessive and they ended the relationships as a result.

There was speculation that Barrett was infatuated with one of Denis's sisters. But he refused to discuss this with detectives and gardai concluded that, in any case, it had nothing to do with the murders.

In fact throughout his garda interviews, Barrett answered in monosyllables where he could and refused to engage in any conversation.

However, he did tell gardai that in 2005 he was dating a woman who was going through a marital separation. Denis advised him to tread carefully as the situation was sensitive. Barrett took offence.

Most Saturday nights, Denis would take Barrett out for a few pints. But mid-way through 2006, the weekly drinks fell by the wayside. Barrett's resentment festered.

Denis's sisters were unable to shed light on Barrett's actions. They described someone who sometimes sat in front of the television smoking cigarettes but who on other occasions ran errands in his car or dropped them off to appointments.

But by the end of 2006 and early 2007, he was so down that Michael Hanrahan called Barrett's father to say he was worried about him.

Barrett didn't confide in anyone. By the middle of 2007, he exiled himself from the Hanrahan home, giving no reason. He simply stopped staying over.

On the morning of March 26, 2008, he went to work at the piggery as usual. As a dose of sedative was being administered to the pigs, Barrett asked: "What does that drug do?" His employer thought it odd, given that Barrett should have known, having worked there for six years.

Barrett smuggled the sedative out that evening before embarking on his murder mission. That night, he took 50 cartridges, a hunting knife and crossbow, rolled on a balaclava and drove the 20 miles from Causeway to the Hanrahan home.

He turned the key in the latch, then shot Denis in the leg, before reloading the gun and shooting both Denis and his father. He turned on the lights in the third bedroom -- where Denis's sister usually slept -- but left when he saw it was empty.

Barrett then drove home, injected himself with the pig sedative and made himself violently ill. He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where, three days later, he confessed.

The only evidence of madness doctors found was his pervasive resentment and sensitivity to slights. He was otherwise certified sane.

His own horrified family expressed their deepest sympathies to the devastated Hanrahans. But Barret could only bring himself to express "regret."

Sunday Independent

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