Trouble brewed between Laurence Kirwan and his elder brother Bernard after their widowed mother died in 1937, leaving them the family’s farm at Ballincloghan, near Rahan, County Offaly.

At first there was no problem because Bernard was in prison at the time of his mother’s death, serving seven years for threatening a postman with a shotgun and robbing him of cash intended to pay pensions at the local post office. In his brother’s absence Laurence happily ran the farm with a young labourer, John Foran. But this changed in June 1941 when Bernard was released from prison and returned to the farm, expecting to be fed and housed but showing no inclination to do any work.

He resented being told what to do by Laurence who at 31 was four years his junior, and the pair’s frequent rows ended with Laurence’s disappearance on NOVEMBER 22nd, 1941, when he failed to keep two appointments that evening.

He was last seen at 6.30 p.m. at the farm, and earlier that day Bernard had sent Foran to the village of Clara a few miles away to collect a repaired watch for him.

When Foran returned at midnight he was astonished to see Bernard wearing Laurence’s overalls and wellingtons, and with food on the table. Laurence had taken to keeping the food under lock and key, saying he didn’t feed jail-birds, and when Foran asked why the food wasn’t locked up Bernard told him that Laurence had “gone away.”

The next day Bernard said his brother had gone to Kildare to look after an aunt’s farm, but Foran thought it strange that Laurence hadn’t taken his car. On the following day Bernard sent Foran to Clara again, this time to buy whiskey, and the day after that Bernard again sent him off, this time to cut reeds for thatching although Foran knew he should have been pulling turnips. “I’m the boss now,” Bernard told him.

Having left prison penniless, Bernard was now spending freely and Foran became increasingly uneasy about Laurence’s absence. The police were also suspicious, and they began to make inquiries. Several searches at the farm failed to reveal any trace of Laurence, but the discovery of his empty wallet in a cupboard suggested that he had not vanished voluntarily.

Then a human torso was found buried in a nearby bog. It was in a sack identical with others at the farm, and Bernard Kirwan was charged with his brother’s murder.

His story that Laurence had gone to his aunt’s farm at Kildare was proved to be false, and he was found to have asked a friend to fabricate an alibi for him. Fragments of bone were found among ashes in a boiler in an outhouse at the farm, a boiler which Bernard admitted he had lit on the two days following his brother’s disappearance. But he had cooked nothing for the pigs, and at his trial the prosecution claimed that he had burned his brother’s arms, legs and head in the boiler fire.

After hearing evidence for 16 days, the jury convicted him and he was hanged on June 2nd, 1943.