A 44-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to murdering his two sons in Co Mayo last year.

(Warning: Graphic details contained in the following report)

Sanjeev Chada, of Ballinkillen, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow, was expected to go on trial next month for the murder of ten-year-old Eoghan and five-year-old Ruairi at Rosbeg in Westport on 29 July 2013.

However, Chada pleaded guilty to murder at the Central Criminal Court this afternoon.

The boys' bodies were discovered in the boot of their father's car after it crashed into a wall near Westport last year. 

Chada was in the driver's seat.

The boys had been missing since the previous night and gardaí had mounted a nationwide search for them.

The court heard that before the killings Chada was facing an investigation for using €56,000 from community funds to gamble on the stock market.

His wife had told him she would stand by him but there was a question over their relationship.

Witnesses to the car crash said they became concerned after seeing children's items in the car.

They then discovered the bodies of the two boys in the boot.

Chada asked to borrow a phone and telephoned his wife and told her the boys were dead.

When asked by gardaí why he killed his children, he said: "Because I love them so much." When asked what it was all about he replied: "Money."

A post-mortem examination showed the cause of death for Eoghan was asphyxia from ligature strangulation and blunt force trauma to the head.

The cause of death for Ruairi was asphyxiation from ligature strangulation.

Chada was reported missing with his sons at 1.30am on Monday 28 July 2013 after he failed to return to his home after leaving with them the previous evening, apparently to go bowling in Carlow town.

Chada told gardaí he never intended to go bowling and was looking for a secluded spot to end the three of their lives.

He said after sleeping overnight in the car he strangled both boys.

In a victim impact statement, the boys' mother Kathleen said Chada had robbed them of their futures and they had died in a "cruel and violent way by their own father".

The court heard Chada had been gambling on the stock market for years and was in financial difficulty.

He did not want his children to come from "a broken home" and had made the decision to end his life and theirs.

The boys' mother said she had to live with the belief that Chada wanted her dead too.

"I would have fought tooth and nail to save my boys," she said.

She added that she had no doubt that her older son had fought to save himself and his brother on the morning they were killed.

She said she thought of how they were killed and how scared they must have been. "Did they cry for me? Did they scream? Did they know what was happening?

"How can evil such as this have been hidden for so long in a seemingly loving father? How can he have been so selfish? They and I trusted him. He was their hero.

"He has robbed us of so very, very much. Who can ever know what potential they had? How can we ever understand or accept the loss?"

The court was told Chada had written a number of notes before he killed his sons and tried to take his own life.

He wrote: "I could not let you bear the pain of being from a broken home. Mammy is getting rid of me and I could not leave you behind. I have so much to teach you but I could not do that if I was not with you ... we will be together now in some way ... in the most beautiful country, your mate and Daddy."

In another note to his wife he explained that the "pain they were going to witness was going to be too bad for them". He asked that he be buried with his children.

In court, his barrister Brendan Grehan read a letter in which Chada said he was truly sorry for the hurt he had brought on everyone but especially his "beloved Kathleen, my best friend and most important people in my life".

A psychiatric report given to the court described him as having grown up in a traditional Indian family.

He took pride in being a role model for his sons.

He had secretly mounted huge debts from online trading and had borrowed from family and friends and lost large amounts of money.

The report said he suffered "cognitive dissonance" due to his image of himself as a good family man contrasted by his secret debts he had amassed through trading on the stock exchange. He feared his marriage was about to end.

He has been in the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum where he remains on "suicide watch", the court was told.