The discovery of the bodies of two elderly brothers-in-law in Co. Carlow yesterday sparked a suspected murder-suicide probe.

The tragedy unfolded on Wednesday morning after firefighters were called to the scene of an emergency.

Firefighters battled the blaze for four hours at Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow, before they found the body of George Rothwell (71) in his large farmhouse. It is understood the local cattle breeder died from gunshot wounds and that a firearm was discovered close to his body.

A small amount of livestock was killed in the fire and up to 30 cattle were rescued from one of the neighboring sheds.

Sometime later, Rothwell’s sister, Hilda, discovered the body of her husband Michael Jordan (51) hanging in an outbuilding in farm. It is understood he had taken his own life.

A local priest, Fr Paddy Byrne, said the family were in shock.

"They are devastated," he said. "This is a very difficult place for anyone to find themselves to be, in terms of the tragic loss of life.

"There is shock, a numbness, an environment where people are trying to come to terms with exactly what happened."

"There's a sense of absolute numbness. When things you often hear about far away come to reality close by it's very difficult.

Fr Byrne said both farmers were well known and well respected: “it's a sad day for the area, it's a huge loss for the community and our immediate concern is to support the families and be close to them. We're trying to comfort and be there for them."