Inquest hears Carlow farmer was unlawfully killed

Tuesday 24 September 2013 22.40
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George Rothwell was shot four times by his brother-in-law Michael Jordan
George Rothwell was shot four times by his brother-in-law Michael Jordan
Gardaí believe a fire was set at Mr Rothwell's barns to draw him out of his house
Gardaí believe a fire was set at Mr Rothwell's barns to draw him out of his house

An inquest in Carlow has heard how a farmer shot his brother-in-law four times before taking his own life.

Michael Jordan, 52, was found by a jury to have unlawfully killed George Rothwell in February 2012 at his home in Bagnelstown.

Gardaí believe Mr Jordan set fire to barns belonging to Mr Rothwell to draw him out of his farmhouse.

He lived a short distance away and started the fire in the middle of the night.

After shooting Mr Rothwell four times with a shotgun - the first shots being fired from outside into the house and the final one from a short distance away - Mr Jordan went back to his own farm, where he died by suicide.

He was found the next morning with nine used shotgun cartridges in his pocket, along with matches.

The inquest into the men's deaths heard a deposition from Hilda Jordan, who had been married to Michael for 20 years at the time of the incident.

Her brother George, who was 68, was never married and the jury heard all three got on well.

They went for lunch together every Sunday and had attended races in Gowran Park a few days before the incident.

Both Mr Rothwell and Mr Jordan owned legally-held shotguns.

The inquest heard that Mrs Jordan's husband had given her an intense kiss before she went to bed on the night of the incident.

She said this was strange and he looked into her eyes with an intensity that she had not seen before.

She said Michael was going out to check on a cow that was calving and she did not hear him come back in.

The following morning, there was no sign of Michael and neighbours rang her to say there had been a fire at her brother George's farm and that he had been found dead in his home.

Two neighbours then came to her house and found Michael's body in a shed.

The jury heard from Mrs Jordan that her husband was a worrier, but that he had no need to worry as they had no money problems.

She said her brother George was very laid-back.

Evidence was given that a 999 call was made at 3.18am on the morning of 22 February to Tara Street in Dublin and it was later confirmed that Mr Rothwell had made this call.

He was reporting that his barns were on fire.

When firefighters arrived within ten minutes from Bagnelstown, they found three buildings alight on his property.

Fire officer Michael Hogan went to the farmhouse and found Mr Rothwell's body lying in the kitchen with a double-barrel shotgun near his legs.

There was a bullet-hole in the kitchen window and pellet-marks at different places on kitchen walls.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis gave evidence that Mr Rothwell had been shot four times - once in the neck from about three feet away; another from about eight to ten feet away, which hit his right side; a third wound to the back of the shoulder and face from a distance; and another that hit the left shoulder.

He said the shot to the neck would have been fatal.

Ballistics expert Detective Garda Ronan Lawlor said two discharged cartridges were found in the shotgun near Mr Rothwell's legs, but it was not clear when the gun was fired.

A deposition from forensic scientist Claire Greaney was read to the jury, which stated that shotgun residue found on Mr Jordan provided very strong support for the view that he shot Mr Rothwell.

Coroner Dr Brendan Doyle told the jury the evidence seemed clear cut.

The jury returned verdicts of unlawful killing in the case of Mr Rothwell and suicide in relation to Mr Jordan.

The coroner later praised Mrs Jordan for her great fortitude.