THE family of three brothers who were killed in tragic circumstances on Thursday evening say they have been left “heartbroken” by their devastating loss.
There were harrowing scenes outside the O’Driscoll family home in Charleville at midday today when the bodies of the twin brothers Patrick and Thomas O’Driscoll, 9, were taken from their family home in two hearses.
Traffic on the main N20 Limerick to Cork road came to a standstill as the two black hearses were driven out onto the main road followed by a group of up to 40 family members, on foot.
Men and women placed their hands on the roof and windows of the vehicles, and wept openly, as the boys’ remains were taken from their home in the hearses which respectfully stopped for a moment outside the house.
The twins’ parents, Helen and Thomas Snr, were cradled by family members as they stared at their children’s coffins through the glass windows of the hearses.
Local priest, Father Tom Naughton of the Holy Cross Parish led the family in some quiet prayers on the roadside while he blessed the hearses before their journey to Cork University Hospital where post-mortems are due to take place.
Speaking briefly to the media, the family said they were “heartbroken” by their loss.
Small yellow flowers have been tied to the gate of the family home at Deerpark, Charleivlle while a small cluster of candles has been lit on the front pier.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader at the scene in Charleville, Superintendent Pat McCarthy of Mallow garda station said the investigation is ongoing and he offered his deepest sympathies to the O’Driscoll family.
It is understood that forensic tests are to be carried out on a knife found in Buttevant near the body of the boys’ older brother Jonathan O’Driscoll, 21, to see if it was the weapon he used to kill the boys.
Thomas and Patrick were stabbed to death.
Locals in the town of Charleville were left “numbed” by the tragedy which began to unfold shortly before 5pm on Thursday afternoon.
Around an hour after the discovery of the bodies of Thomas and Patrick, a third body, that of their older brother, Jonathan, was discovered in Buttevant some eight miles away.
The bodies of the twin brothers remained at their home overnight and were removed at midday today following the arrival of the Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis who will carry out post-mortems at Cork University Hospital.
Following the removal of the bodies from the home, investigators continued to examine the interior of terracotta-coloured family home which is located less than half a mile outside the town of Charleville, in an area known as Deerpark.
A strip of garda incident scene tape still stretches out across the five front pillars of the O’Driscoll home.
Soft toys, including a white teddy bear, sit inside one window, while a bouquet of white flowers stands in a vase inside another.
In the driveway, a statue to Our Lady stands in front of a green slide. A child’s small, red bike is lying on its side near a garden shed.
Neighbours - too devastated to speak - just shake their head at the devastating loss.
Thomas and Patrick were pupils at Banogue Nation School, located some 10 miles from their home. The parents of the boys Thomas and Helen O’Driscoll were shopping in Kilmallock at the time of the tragedy.
The school in Banogue remained open today and children could be seen playing in the backyard at lunchtime. Both Patrick and Thomas had been at the school only yesterday.
The school principal said management, staff and pupils at the school are “deeply shocked and saddened by the killing of the twin brothers”.
“This is a terrible tragedy for the family, the school and the whole community. We are deeply saddened by this event,” said Sheila Cagney.
Ms Cagney described both boys, who had been pupils for just over a year, as “loving, energetic and full of fun”.
She said the focus of the staff at this time was on the pupils in the school who are trying to come to terms with the loss of young friends.
In the town of Charleville people continued about their business this Friday afternoon but their thoughts were never far from the O’Driscoll family tragedy.
Two women chatting outside Price Savers on the main street said they boys were known to be “happy and playful” while another local recalled how their older brother Jonathon had been in a shop recently to buy sweets for the children.
According to local sources the twin brothers had visited a local park with their older brother after returning home from school on Thursday.
“Everything seems to have been fine, the boys were at school and then went to the park, nobody seems to know what happened that lead to such a drastic situation,” he said.
It is understood that two younger siblings, aged three and four, who had been in the house at the time of the tragedy and shouted out through a front hedge for help. Neighbours were alerted and the gardaí were called.
A major manhunt swung into action in an attempt to locate Jonathon O’Driscoll who it is understood had been left to look after the children after they came home from school.
After news of the tragedy broke, extended family and friends began to gather outside the O’Driscoll home.
There were scenes of raw emotion as women cried openly and embraced one another as they sat on the front pier of a neighbouring house. The home is one of six bungalows in a row the busy N20.
Many of those in mourning were dressed in brightly coloured T-shirts and vests having been enjoying the Indian summer temperatures on Thursday afternoon before the pall of gloom descended on the north Cork town.
The heavy Thursday evening traffic between Cork and Limerick was diverted via Kilmallock and O’Rourke’s Cross for several hours with only family, gardai, emergency services and local residents being allowed through garda checkpoints.
Commuters were initially alerted to the incident when squad cars were seen being driven at high speed through the towns of Charleville and Kilmallock.
Shortly before 6.30pm, gardaí found the body of Jonathan O’Driscoll, an older brother, near a riverbank in Buttevant.
Foul play is not suspected in Jonathan’s death.
Locals described Jonathon O’Driscoll as a “deep individual” who “had his own troubles”.
This is the second incident of this nature to occur in Charleville in recent times. It is almost two years to the day since eight-year-old Anthony Ward was smothered by his mother Diane at their home in Harrison Place in Charleville.
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.