KILLER father Sanjeev Chada slept in the family car overnight with his two sons who were strangled to death, gardai believe.
Detectives are still not sure whether Eoghan (10) and Ruairi (5) were dead when Mr Chada stopped to rest some time after disappearing with the boys on Sunday night.
But witnesses who described the disturbing moment the dead boys were discovered lying side by side in the boot of a car said they appeared to have been dead for some time.
Their heartbroken mother Kathleen is today preparing to bring Eoghan and Ruairi on their final journey home to Ballinkillen, Co Carlow.
Last night it emerged that Mr Chada told witnesses to his car crash: "The bodies are in the boot."
The Irish Independent understands that gardai plan to arrest Mr Chada for questioning today, as they expect he will be
discharged from Castlebar hospital.
He had been treated for soft tissue injuries sustained after trying to commit suicide by driving his car into a wall with a noose around his neck on Monday afternoon.
Mr Chada (43) was in a dazed and distressed state when concerned locals attempted to help him from the wreckage of the car which had ploughed into a stone wall at Rossbeg, Westport, Co Mayo.
He had a rope wrapped around his neck and attempted to strangle himself even as the witnesses struggled to help him. He repeatedly tightened the rope which was wrapped twice around his neck, as they tried to restrain him and remove the ligature.
One of the first people on the scene described it as a "chilling and numbing experience".
Sean O'Malley, a retired school teacher from Rosbeg, recalled the moment the bodies were found. He said: "The boys were lying side by side.
"There was no obvious injuries but I knew they had been dead for a while at that stage."
Mr O'Malley immediately called the emergency services and told them that two children were dead in the car. He stayed on the line until they arrived at the scene.
Meanwhile, the father of the dead boys asked another passing motorist, local solicitor Sean Foy, if he could use his mobile phone to make a call.
It is understood that Mr Chada phoned home and his call was then returned by Carlow gardai.
Retired teacher Mr O'Malley told the Irish Independent he became concerned after seeing children's clothes and toys in the back seat of the car.
He had heard the bang as the car hit the wall at speed and went to assist. He discovered Mr Chada lying in the front seat in a distressed state. Fearing that the car would go on fire, he opened the back door and noticed an array of children's clothes and toys.
"There was clothes and children's things and a little car seat. I realised children had been in the car and asked another local man if anyone had got out. We opened the boot and saw the children."
A doctor, visiting the area from the UK was also among the first on the scene. He pronounced the children dead shortly after the discovery.
Mr Chada was mumbling throughout the incident and told those trying to help him "It's too late," witnesses told the 'Mayo News'.
Post-mortem examinations have found that the two children were both strangled to death but gardai still haven't established when the murders took place.
Officers are still trying to piece together what happened after Mr Chada left his home with Eoghan and Ruairi at 6.30 on Sunday evening.
His wife Kathleen raised the alarm in the early hours of Monday morning after they did not return home, and she could not make contact with them.
It has emerged that Mr Chada did not bring his mobile phone, making it more difficult for gardai to trace his movements across the country to Co Mayo.
Gardai are working on the theory that he slept in the family's green Ford Focus car overnight but do not know if the boys were dead at this stage.
Yesterday it was revealed that Mr Chada was at the centre of an investigation into the alleged embezzlement of €50,000 from a local community organisation. Gardai were in the process of setting up an investigation into the suspected theft, which may be connected to the double tragedy.
By Paul Williams and Caroline Crawford