Murder suspect torched estranged wife's clothes
Husband's rage at victim's plans to sell home after she walked out
THE MAN suspected of brutally murdering his wife before staging a dramatic stand-off with gardai burnt her clothes after she left him and raged at her plans to sell their family home.
According to garda sources, Patricia Kierans had left her husband, Oliver, in recent months to live with her sister and had started a new relationship.
But last Thursday, she returned to the terraced family home in Bailieborough to collect her post and to discuss selling their house.
There, Mr Kierans is believed to have followed her upstairs to their bedroom, where she was beaten and shot in the chest with a shotgun.
In a bizarre show of calm, Mr Kierans went to his local pub, The Square, after allegedly shooting his wife, and drank two pints. When gardai caught up with him there some hours later, he barricaded himself in with a shotgun.
The siege ended eight hours later, at 3am, when Mr Kierans walked out of a back door of the pub and agreed to go to the local garda station.
Mr Kierans was admitted to Cavan General Hospital, where he was kept in for observation over the weekend although he is not thought to have suffered any serious injuries.
Detectives investigating Patricia's murder will be looking no further than her estranged husband, who locals say was enraged at the disintegration of his family life.
The murder of Patricia Kierans, 54, and her husband's attempted dramatic siege in his local pub has left residents in the rural market town of Bailieborough reeling, not least because the family is so well known in the area.
Patricia Purdy came from Belfast to Bailieborough with her family as part of a programme to resettle families at the height of the Troubles. She was working as a machinist when she met her future husband, Oliver Kierans.
He comes from a long-established Bailieborough family who were involved in local businesses. In the early years of their marriage, he worked at various delivery jobs before setting up his own successful taxi company, employing a number of drivers.
Meanwhile, he and Patricia raised four children – three sons and one daughter – from their terraced house in Drumbannon, in the same terrace of houses in which Mr Kierans was raised as a child.
When his business closed down a number of years ago, Mr Kierans tried to get work doing odd jobs around the town, but he was also known to be a heavy drinker. One man said he was often seen in local pubs during the daytime. One of his regular haunts was The Square, where he occasionally worked for the owner, Nixy Clarke. Whether his drinking contributed to the collapse of their marriage is not clear, but according to her local priest, Father Oliver O'Reilly, Mrs Kierans had been living in fear for some time.
After 33 years of marriage, Mrs Kierans had decided to leave her husband in recent months, after going for counselling organised by her priest. Their children were now adults. Three of them, Oliver, Julie and Gerard, had emigrated to Australia.
The last of the children, Shane, was due to join his siblings in Australia and embarked on the first leg of his journey the day before his mother's murder.
"She had confided in me quite a bit over the last year and she had expressed fear that her life was in danger," Fr O'Reilly said last week. "I had got her professional help."
One local woman who lives near Drumbannon said Patricia and Oliver both came from highly respected families. For that reason, few people would be speaking about what happened, she said. But she added that Mrs Kierans had not been seen around for a while and it soon became known that the couple had parted company.
It was known that Mrs Kierans used to visit the pubs to bring her husband food or money, while she spent most of her time at home looking after her grandchildren.
In recent months, Mrs Kierans moved in with her sister, Mairead, who had been involved in the restaurant trade in Cavan town. Her sister knew that Patricia planned to visit her family home in Bailieborough on the Thursday when she died.
When she failed to return to Cavan, Mairead, fearing the worst, contacted the gardai. One of the first ports of call was to The Square, where Mr Kierans was seen downing a pint of beer with the keys of his wife's car on the counter in front of him. He reportedly told the barmaid: "This is the last time you'll see this face."
The arrival of gardai triggered the siege, involving more than 80 officers and trained negotiators trying to talk him down. According to one local man, Mr Kierans had become increasingly isolated and paranoid about the disintegration of his family. "What other reason could there be for it?" he said.
Last night, three of the Kierans' adult children were journeying back to Cavan from Australia, while Shane was reportedly already home.
The local Fine Gael TD, Joe O'Reilly, said the town would stand behind them: "The entire town and the community is traumatised by what happened. We feel almost helpless in this situation. But we are determined to support both families."
One man who knew the couple said: "I would say that she just got tired of the lifestyle... I think drink played a big role in it. She didn't drink at all."
Another man, John Sheanan, who until recently ran a butchers in Bailieborough, said: "It is so hard to shock people any more but this has really impacted on the town."
- MAEVE SHEEHAN in Bailieborough, and JIM CUSACK