Monday 26 August 2019

Son has no memory of what happened the day his parents died in murder-suicide, inquest hears

  • Son of couple who died in a murder-suicide does not recall what happened on the day his parents died
  • 'All we can do is remember Tom and Catherine Fitzgerald as best we can and try and learn something' - coroner
  • Jury record verdict of death by homicide for Mrs Fitzgerald and one of self inflicted homicide in the case of her husband Tom
Main: A hearse drives up a sealed-off road towards the Fitzgeralds’ home in Knockadoon, Co Mayo. Photo: Steve Humphreys; Insets: Tom Fitzgerald and his wife Kitty
Main: A hearse drives up a sealed-off road towards the Fitzgeralds’ home in Knockadoon, Co Mayo. Photo: Steve Humphreys; Insets: Tom Fitzgerald and his wife Kitty

Caroline Crawford

An inquest into the deaths of a husband and wife who died in a murder suicide in Mayo last year has concluded, with the verdict of homicide and self-inflicted homicide being returned.

Tom and Kitty Fitzgerald were found dead at their home on November 1, 2016.

The body of Tom Fitzgerald (75) was found behind a storage shed on the farmyard outside the family home near Irishtown.

His wife Kitty (72) was discovered in a pool of blood inside the property.

Their son Paul was discovered elsewhere in the house, suffering from serious head injuries.

The inquest took place today with evidence from a number of gardai who were called to the scene.

The inquest also heard from Aoife O'Gorman, who had been dating Paul Fitzgerald. A statement from her heard how she had become concerned about Paul after failing to hear from him which was out of character.

After texting Paul 30 to 40 times and calling him with no answer, Ms O'Gorman travelled to his family home on November, 1, 2016.

There she found Paul's jeep and dogs in the yard. When she approached the door she noticed a bloody handprint on it.

She could hear a power shower but received no answer when she knocked.

Ms O'Gorman said she became worried and called her mother. After knocking again eventually Paul came out of the house. He had two black eyes and a serious head wound to the back of his head.

"I could see into his skull," she said.

The inquest heard that Mr FItzgerald was saying words but making no sense.

"I asked him where his parents were and why they didn't bring him to the hospital. He said he didn't know. Paul said random words, shower, bed, he wasn't making sense," said Ms O'Gorman.

Ms O'Gorman said she was taking him to hospital. He told her 20 minutes and went back into the house leaving the back door open.

The inquest heard that Ms O'Gorman then noticed one of the dogs 'whimpering' by the door.

Fearing Paul had collapsed she went inside.

"I went towards the hallway and looked and I saw a body on the ground. Molly the dog was beside the body. The body was a woman in her pyjamas. There was a massive pool of blood beside her head," the inquest heard.

Ms O'Gorman continued to walk through the house calling Paul's name.

She entered a room with blood splashed on the door and found Mr Fitzgerald sitting on the bed.

Ms O'Gorman left the house and called 999 she returned to the house and the ambulance and gardai arrived.

Gardai searched the area and found Mrs Fitzgerald dead in the hallway. She had suffered a number of blows to the head.

They later found the body of her husband Tom behind a shed. He was partially submerged in a water tank.

The inquest also heard from Mr Fitzgerald who said he had no memory of what had occurred in the family home and he had no memory of why he had gone home on that occasion.

He revisited the family home for the first time since the tragedy on March 23 of this year along with gardaí and Ms O'Gorman.

"I walked around the house inside and also the yard outside. I still have no recollection of what happened at my parent's house," he said.

John Hoade, a forensic scientist with Forensic Science Ireland examined the scene. He told the inquest that the blood spatter suggested Mrs Fitzgerald was initially assaulted in the main bedroom and as she made her way up the hallway she was fatally struck on the head where she lay.

Blood patterns in the shed indicated Paul was assaulted in this area and collapsed on the ground outside. He subsequently made his way into the house and lay on the single bed bleeding heavily.

Blood matching both Mrs Fitzgerald and her son was also found on a metal bar which is believed to have been used as a weapon in the assaults against them.

Dr Michael Curtis, Deputy State Pathologist gave evidence that Mrs Catherine, Kitty, Fitzgerald was struck a minimum of three blows to the head with a solid instrument. She sustained a number of skull fractures and death would have ensued rapidly, he told the court.

Mrs Fitzgerald also had bruising to her left arm and hand consistent with defensive type injuries.

He recorded her cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head.

In the case of Tom Fitzgerald, Dr Curtis noted superficial wounds on his neck consistent with self inflicted injuries.

He had suffered damage to his pharynx and oesophagus, consistent with the ingestion of corrosive fluid.

Dr Curtis recorded cause of death as ingestion of corrosive fluid with pharyngeal and oesophageal necrosis.

After hearing all the evidence the jury in the inquest recorded a verdict of death by homicide for Mrs Fitzgerald and one of self inflicted homicide in the case of her husband Tom.

Mr Pat O'Connor, Coroner for Mayo described the case as one of the most difficult a coroner could be asked to deal with.

He extended his sympathies to all those involved particularly Paul Fitzgerald adding:

"There is lots that could be said but words are really inadequate. It seems all we can do is remember Tom and Catherine Fitzgerald as best we can and try and learn something, I don't know what, from their tragic deaths."

If you have been affected by any of these issues you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247

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