Three brothers nicknamed 'The Saints' died in a suspected double murder-suicide in what is believed to be a dispute over land.
Willie (66), Paddy 'Pa' (60) and John (59) Hennessy were all found dead yesterday in an incident that has shocked the rural heartland of Corragorm, just outside Mitchelstown, Co Cork.
Two of the brothers were bludgeoned to death with an axe at the family farm.
A third was recovered dead from the River Funshion outside Mitchelstown, less than 1km from where his car was found parked near the church where the brothers usually worshipped following a massive Garda manhunt.
Detectives fear that the suspected double murder-suicide was sparked by a dispute between the trio - described by locals as incredibly close over their lifetime - about the small 25-acre farm and the income derived from it against a background of health issues.
However, gardai said they are baffled as to the precise motive involved.
Paddy had suffered a stroke before Christmas and was still recovering.
It was the third tragedy to hit the family, with a fourth brother Jer having died in tragic circumstances in January 2014. The son of one of the brothers also died in tragic circumstances in May 2012.
The bodies of Paddy and Willie were found at their Corragorm farm, 6km from Mitchelstown, when a relative went to the property amid concern for their welfare shortly after 11pm on Thursday and alerted gardai.
One brother was found with horrific head injuries lying in the farmyard. A second brother was found with similarly horrific injuries in a nearby farm shed. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
A third brother, John, who lived at the property, was not present and his red Toyota Corolla van was missing.
Gardai at the scene between Mitchelstown and Kildorrery were supported by armed members of the Regional Support Unit.
Despite initial indications, gardai said they are satisfied that no firearm was used in the tragedy.
Police conducted a massive manhunt for the third brother and his red Toyota was found parked near Killacluig Church - 4km from the farmhouse - at a round 9am.
A massive search of the local countryside outside Mitchelstown was supported by uniformed gardai, Garda dog units and the Garda helicopter.
Shortly after noon, gardai spotted a body in the nearby River Funshion and it was later recovered.
Three scenes - the farmhouse, car park and river field - have been preserved and are undergoing examination by forensic experts from the Garda Technical Bureau.
Locum State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster visited the scene shortly after 1pm and all three bodies were later removed to Cork University Hospital for post-mortem examinations.
Supt Liam Geraghty said gardai were not looking for anyone else in relation to the tragedy.
More than 50 officers were deployed to the operation.
"Gardai have commenced a criminal investigation into a set of tragic incidents here in Mitchelstown," he said.
"We are not looking for anyone else in relation to this matter at this time."
Supt Geraghty said no weapon had been recovered yet.
"Gardai will support the family through this personal tragedy for them," he added.