Twin boys were murdered in a stabbing frenzy by an older brother, who then drove 15km from the family’s bungalow and killed himself.
A small community in north Cork was left reeling last night after the deaths of nine-year-old Patrick and Thomas O’Driscoll.
The horrific attacks may have been witnessed by their young siblings, aged three and five. The twins’ bodies were discovered in separate bedrooms.
Gardai were alerted to the tragedy after a child ran to a neighbour’s house, screaming: “Jon has killed my brothers.”
A manhunt for their older brother Jonathan, who was seen leaving the house in a car, was launched.
About an hour later a group of children walking along the banks of a river in Buttevant found the vehicle and the body of the 21-year-old lying nearby. Foul play was ruled out.
The Irish Independent understands that the older brother had been minding the twin boys while their parents were away on a trip to Kilmallock, Co Limerick.
Both boys sustained multiple stab wounds. Sources said that they suffered a "horrific death".
A three-year-old and five-year-old were in the house as the tragedy unfolded and it is feared they may have witnessed the attack.
The boys' heartbroken parents, Thomas and Ellen, were informed about the tragedy by telephone. The couple have three other children who are adopted. They were being comforted by relatives last night. Family members were visibly upset.
An aunt of the boys, who did not wished to be named, told the Irish Independent that the entire family was shocked by the tragedy.
There are five houses close together near the O'Driscoll home in Deerpark and last night the close-knit community was finding it hard to come to terms with the horror that unfolded.
A close relative of the family said the entire community had been devastated. "It's the saddest thing I ever saw in my life," he said.
"Jon must have been in a bad way himself and needed help himself."
The family are well-respected in the area and Ellen was described as a great mother who did her best to provide for her family. When they first got married, Thomas and Ellen lived in a caravan in the area but had worked hard to get a bungalow.
A HSE Air Corps air ambulance, based at Costume Barracks, Athlone, was dispatched to the house to fly the boys to hospital; however it was quickly stood down when it became clear the twins were dead at the scene.
Ambulance crews from Mallow were met by a bloody scene.
They will be offered counselling as a matter of protocol.
The area around the house, near O'Rourke's Cross on the main N20 Limerick Cork road, remained sealed off last night, as did the scene in Buttevant where Jonathan O'Driscoll's body was found.
Forensic experts from the technical bureau at the Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park are expected to carry out a full examination of the house today.
The communities of Charleville and Buttevant were shocked by the triple tragedy and residents gathered in small groups on the streets as details of the deaths began to emerge.
Local priest Fr Tom Naughton told the Irish Independent: "We don't know from one day to the next what is going to come around the corner."
He said that the close-knit community was shocked by the tragic events.
"The whole community here is in shock, and our hearts go out to the family. And we commend the two little children to the glory of God," he said.
"And we ask as well at this very difficult time for their family to be helped through our prayers, support and through our closeness here as a community in Charleville.
"It is a very, very difficult time," he said.
Deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis was due to arrive at the scene late last night and a post-mortem examination will be carried out on the brothers today.
Gardai in Charleville are appealing for witnesses or anyone with information to contact them on 022 31450, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any garda station.
Superintendent Pat McCarthy from Charleville is leading the investigation into the discovery of the three bodies.
It's the second tragedy to hit the town in just over two years.
The murder-suicide came only a day after the second anniversary of the manslaughter of another local boy, Anthony Ward, who was smothered by his mother.
On July 7 this year Anthony's mother Diane Ward was convicted of her son's manslaughter and sent to the Central Mental Hospital in Dublin after a seven-year suspended jail sentence was imposed on her.
The Central Criminal Court found that she was depressed and suicidal when she killed Anthony (8) on September 3, 2012.
Judge Barry White said it was "a particularly tragic case" and that Ward was "quite clearly troubled mentally" at the time.