A FRAIL pensioner accidentally blasted his sheep farmer friend to death due to fears he was being targeted by a rural crime gang.
Police believe Martin Caulfield, 85, shot neighbour Brendan Kilduff, 67, in the chest after mistaking him for a burglar.
It is understood the victim had been in visiting his pal in his home in Ireland just minutes beforehand.
Mr Caulfield, who lives alone at his isolated farmhouse in Co Mayo, was in bed around 11.55pm on Tuesday night when he is understood to have heard his dog barking.
The farmer then noticed the security lights on his property before grabbing his firearm and going downstairs.
Once there, it’s believed he noticed a man in the yard before shouting a warning and opening fire.
Mr Kilduff, who knows Mr Caulfield, then got into his car before driving off in Coogue near Aghamore, Ballyhaunis.
Investigators believe a second shot was fired at the vehicle before it crashed into a ditch 100 yards from the property.
We can also reveal the house holder raised the alarm after finding Mr Kilduff slumped at the wheel of the car.
The shooting victim was pronounced dead at the scene as the pensioner was arrested and brought to Claremorris Garda station for questioning.
He was released without charge this evening and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
One theory being explored is that Mr Kilduff was visiting the property to discuss the sale of a tractor and other farming equipment.
A source said: “Properties in this area have been targeted by burglary gangs in the past and there is still a sense of fear out there.
“Both men would have been known to each other and there is a suspicion that the home owner mistakenly thought he was being targeted by an intruder.
RELEASED WITHOUT CHARGE
“This is a very sad and tragic case because on the one hand who have an elderly gentleman terrified of people coming to house and another man losing his life.
“This is such a tragic accident with two lives being ruined.”
Another source said Brendan had been in the house and then left but had problems with his car.
When he returned to the home, he was wearing a cap with a torch light on it and Mr Caulfield did not recognise him.
The local source said: “He had been in there and they were chatting.
“Brendan had left and came back after problems with his car, but he was wearing a cap with a light on it and Martin didn’t recognise him.
“It’s one of those very unfortunate things.”
Police have urged anyone with information on the shooting to come forward.
A spokesman said: “Gardaí in Castlebar investigating the fatal shooting of the man at Aghamore, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo on September 17, 2019 have released without charge the arrested man (80s), this evening Wednesday 18th September, 2019 and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“The post mortem has been completed, and the results will not be released for operational reasons.