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Apart from one previous killing in the 1980s, the phenomenon of murder-suicides by parents in Ireland/Northern Ireland appears to have started around 2000.
There have been 24 incidents of completed or attempted filicide-suicides in the island of Ireland since the turn of the century. On average, there are only seven such cases a year in the United Kingdom.
So, why is this happening?
Unfortunately, because of the way in which filicide-suicide is currently dealt with it, it is almost certain that reported accounts are less complete than in the case of other crimes.
The inquest system – which is designed to focus on the cause of death of a victim rather than the motivation of a perpetrator – does not provide an adequate method of exploring the causes of filicide-suicide.
This is exacerbated by the fact that, due to the death of the perpetrator, such crimes are rarely followed by any criminal trial.
Much of the reporting and inquest proceedings involves the paying of tribute and sympathy to victims and perpetrators.
Media sensitivity and concern for surviving family members of the deceased also results in light reporting of the background to such crimes.
Overleaf, we have compiled all available information on each incident and, despite the lack of rigour in reporting these cases, some factors are notable..
The dramatic increase in filicide-suicide appears to largely coincide with an increase in the use of anti-depresssants.
Although in many cases the medical history of the perpetrators is not fully detailed, it appears that a number of the perpetrators had either recently commenced or ceased taking such medication.
A question arises as to whether or not this may have resulted in an extreme response to stresses, which might not otherwise have occurred.
The vast majority of the perpetrators were well regarded and integrated into the local community in which they lived. Most lived in rural areas and were active members of local GAA clubs and the local Catholic Church.
Something which may need to be considered is to what extent past sexual abuse of the perpetrators may be contributing to filicide-suicide in Ireland.
As with the role of anti-depressants, this is an issue which – although referenced in at least one of the cases listed – has been largely unexplored in coverage of these killings.
Without full State reports into all cases of filicide-suicides, it is not possible to ascertain what exactly is causing these crimes and take steps to prevent them occurring in future.
Such reports, which are mandatory in the United Kingdom in all cases of murder-suicides within 12 months of someone having dealt with mental health services, would not only provide information which would be of assistance in preventing future crimes but would also help the surviving family members of the deceased in understanding why exactly such crimes occurred.
Ironically, as illustrated by at least one of the cases referenced below, without a proper consideration of such crimes, these family members may not only be left without comprehension as to how such crimes occurred but may even become a target for gossip and misstatement in their local communities.
We will correct any errors.
March 5, 2000 Catherine Palmer (nee O’Sullivan) (36), of Galway, drowned herself and her two daughters, Jennifer (9) and Louisa (6), by driving off the pier at Kinvara Bay, Galway.
Mrs Palmer left a note with the words “This is hell” – written nine times over. The additional words “[a] disgusting waste of two beautiful girls – two human beings” were written on the reverse.
The previous year, Mrs Palmer had developed a belief she was terminally ill, facing a horrible death and had infected her children. She had been admitted to a psychiatric unit at University College Hospital, Galway, and kept there for a week, but was subsequently released without any system having been put in place for monitoring her condition and how she progressed.
No further details of Ms Palmer’s background were given and it has not been reported whether or not she was on anti-depressants at the time of her death.
Her husband, Roy Palmer, a scientist and fish pathologist at NUI Galway, was subsequently awarded €110,000 and costs in settlement of his action against Professor Thomas Fahy, the former head of the unit, in a civil action for negligence.
In a joint statement with the O’Sullivan family, Mr Palmer stated that, in addition to their grief, family and friends had had a long struggle to make known what led to the deaths and that it was unacceptable there was no mandatory full inquiry into such deaths.
December 7, 2000 Michael Burke (51), of Dublin, drowned himself and his daughter Miriam (9) by driving off the pier at Howth, Dublin.
At the inquest, it was stated that Mr Burke had been anxious about money and worried about the future. Social worker visits had been organised for him. He had kept the first appointment to see a social worker, but didn’t turn up for any more.
No details of Mr Burke’s background are reported other than the fact that he was a fisherman by trade and that there were a number of prescription drugs in his system at the time of his death. It was not reported whether or not these prescription drugs were anti-depressants.
March 3, 2001 Stephen Byrne (40), of Cuffesgrange, Co Kilkenny, stabbed his wife Maeve to death before drowning himself and his two sons, Alan (10) and Shane (6), by driving off Duncannon Pier, Wexford.
The stabbing of Mrs Byrne occurred at the family home. It was subsequently reported that Mrs Byrne had been having an affair with a local man, and that Mr Byrne had gone home that evening to confront her about the affair.
At the inquest, it was stated that Mr Byrne had spoken to his brother Paul by phone at 8.30pm and that later that evening, between 10 and 10.45pm, an internet search had been carried out from the family home for holiday phone numbers.
Mr Byrne was a keen fisherman and regularly fished at Duncannon Pier. He was described by the harbourmaster there as “a total gentleman” and “so honourable.”
No further details are reported of Mr Byrne’s background or medical history, nor was it stated whether he was on anti-depressants at the time of the deaths.
Mr Byrne’s brother Paul suffered further tragedy when his partner Christine Quinn was murdered in Kilkenny city the following year. An 18 year-old youth, a friend of her son’s, subsequently pleaded guilty to her murder.
The Fox family
27-28 July, 2001 Gregory Fox (36), of Castledaly, Co Westmeath,beat his wife Debbie to death and killed his sons, Killian (7) and Trevor (9), by stabbing them before attempting to kill himself.
Mrs Fox was killed in the kitchen of the family home and the two boys were stabbed 47 times in their beds upstairs. One of them had defensive wounds.
Mr Fox pleaded guilty to murder, and was given three life sentences. A confession to Gardai, read out at his trial, stated that earlier on the day of the murder Mrs Fox had told him she was leaving him for another man and taking the children with her.
According to Mr Fox:
“I loved the three of them. I loved my wife. She didn’t love me. She was going to leave. I pleaded with her not to go. I only killed the kids because I didn’t want them to wake up in the morning and find her dead.”
In a further written statement read out in court, by his defence counsel Patrick Gageby SC, Mr Fox said he took full responsibility for the killings and apologised to his and Debbie’s families.
“I feel I have caused enough pain to my family and my wife’s family and I do not wish to put everyone through the ordeal of a trial,” he said. “I never set out with the intention of harming my wife or children, but the cataclysmic effect of the sudden collapse of my relationship with my wife brought on events and acts on my part which I never thought I would be capable of.”
The Foxes were proprietors of a small shop and filling station. The family was originally from Dublin and had moved to Castledaly only a year and a half previously. Mr Fox had previously worked as a travelling salesman.
There are no further reports of Mr Fox’s background or medical history, nor is it stated whether he was on anti-depressants at the time of the deaths.
August 30, 2001 Christopher Crowley shot his daughter, Deirdre (6), and himself at Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
Mr Crowley had abducted Deirdre from her mother Christine two years previously and had been in hiding with her since. The shooting occurred when Gardai discovered the hideaway.
Mr Crowley, a former maths teacher, had separated from Christine in 1998. At the time of her abduction, there was a custody dispute in being in respect of Deirdre.
According to his wife, Christopher had enjoyed a reputation as “a fine decent character. . . a quiet, hardworking, willing, salt-of-the-earth great guy”.
A decade and a half previously, Crowley, a maths teacher at the Loreto convent, Fermoy, had had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student, Regina Nelligan, which began during a school trip to Paris and lasted until after she completed her Leaving Certificate.
Nelligan and Crowley made contact again following his separation from Christine and she was subsequently found guilty of assisting in Deirdre’s abduction.
There are no further reports of Mr Crowley’s background or medical history.
November, 2001 George McGloin, originally from Canada, stabbed his daughter, Robyn (2), to death before also killing himself by stabbing.
The stabbing occurred at the home of Robyn’s mother, Ms Lorraine Leahy, who had separated from him shortly after Robyn’s birth. Mr McGloin had arrived at Ms Leahy’s house earlier that day for his regular visit with Robyn. Ms Leahy left him in the house, and went out.
Some hours later, she received a call on her mobile phone asking her to return. On opening the front door, she was punched by Mr McGloin and fell to the ground. Mr McGloin then got a poker, lifted Robyn’s dress and started poking her in the stomach.
When Ms Leahy ran into the kitchen for a knife, he struck her with the poker on the back of the head. She saw blood on Robyn and ran for help. When neighbours entered the house, both McGloin and Robyn were dead, having been stabbed with the same knife.
At the time of the murder, McGloin, who had had a previous family in Canada, was working as a medical technician in Limerick. According to a neighbour, Ms Colette Cooke, Mr McGloin “was always real nice and pleasant. There wasn’t anything about him that would give you concern”.
No further details of Mr McCloin’s background or medical history were reported, nor was it stated if he was on anti-depressants at the time of the deaths.
April, 2005 Sharon Grace, (28) from Wexford, drowns herself and her two daughters, Mikahla (4) and Abby (3), at Kaats Strand, Wexford.
Earlier that day, Mrs Grace had taken a taxi from her home to Ely Private Hospital, Wexford, and asked to speak to a social worker. She was told that there were none available as they were on duty only from Monday to Friday.
Mrs Grace then asked for an emergency number but was told there was none. She was told that she could contact Wexford General Hospital, but said this was not necessary and left the hospital.
Mrs Grace was separated from her husband who was seeking custody of the two children and it was stated at the inquest that she believed her daughters were going to be taken from her.
No details of Mrs Grace’s medical history were reported nor was it stated if she was on anti-depressants at the time of the deaths.
Following Mrs Grace’s death, a working group set up by the Department of Health concluded in 2007 that a 24-hour social service should be put in place.
The HSE accepted the recommendation but the Department took the view that the cost of providing extra staff was not feasible in the current climate.
Mrs Grace’s case was included in the 2012 Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group which examined the deaths of 196 children known to the HSE during the 10-year period from January 2000 to April 2010.
It was stated that the Grace family was known to the HSE for just over one month prior to the deaths. Both parents had contacted the HSE social work office in relation to maintenance and access. The report expressed concern about the limited information on the record in relation to the case.
Subsequently, another woman, Jeane Creane, was to commit suicide after being sent away from Waterford Regional Hospital when she sought help.
July 12, 2005 Madeleine O’Neill, (41) of Carryduff, Belfast, originally from Derry, kills her daughter, Lauren (9), before taking her own life.
Mrs O’Neill gave Lauren sleeping pills and then smothered her in the main bedroom of their home before hanging herself. She left five suicide notes including one to her mother and father.
Mrs O’Neill had battled depression after suffering sexual abuse as a child. After separating from her husband, John, she had developed an acute psychiatric illness in May 2005 which required both inpatient and outpatient treatment.
She relapsed and was admitted to Knockbracken Health Care Park in June. Four days later, she was transferred to Gransha Hospital, where she remained until her release following a two-week stay.
At a preliminary inquest, it emerged that Mrs O’Neill had told a counsellor she was having suicidal thoughts and referred to “taking her daughter with her”.
Concerns were also expressed over an”apparent failure” to transfer her medical notes between a Belfast mental health unit and a psychiatric hospital in Derry were outlined.
Subsequently, an independent review was carried out which found that the deaths of the mother and daughter could have been prevented if health professionals responsible for their care had “communicated better”.
In a joint statement, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and Western Health and Social Care Trust admitted “inexcusable” failures to act properly or appropriately to ensure that all relevant arrangements were put in place for the protection of Lauren and, by way of settlement of two civil actions, agreed to pay five-figure damages and costs to Mrs O’Neill’s family and her estranged husband John O’Neill.
February 12, 2006 Mary Keegan, (41) of Firhouse, Dublin, originally from Ballyroan, Dublin, stabs her two sons, Glen (10) and Andrew (6), to death and takes her own life by stabbing and slashing her wrists.
The stabbings took place in the family home – the windows and doors of which had been previously locked by Mrs Keegan. One of the children had been stabbed up to 20 times while the other had been knifed in the face, neck, head and stomach.
Mrs Keegan had been treated for mental illness in the past. It was reported that she was suffering from delusions of poverty and had attended a doctor the previous month. It was further reported that medication was found in her home, although details of this medication was not given.
Mrs Keegan, originally from Ballyroan, was a former beautician who worked part-time for GE Capital Woodchester.
Her husband, Brian, a mechanic, was away in the United States on business at the time of the stabbing and his return had been delayed due to heavy snowfalls.
Mr Keegan also came from Ballyroan and he and his wife had been childhood sweethearts. Their son Glen played GAA at Ballyboden St Enda’s and was described by his under-9 mentor Derek Ward as “a wonderful lad and a fantastic talent”.
At the inquest, Mr Keegan stated that he was proud to have known and married his wife, whom he described as the most loving and generous person he ever met and an inspiration to him and his children.
In a statement released by his solicitor, he stated that
”[u]nbeknownst to myself and those close to her, Mary became over a short period of time engulfed in depression. This led to Mary’s actions on that fateful day.There is, however, no anger in my heart towards her as her actions were borne out of a will to protect our children from the harshness she perceived in this world, however inconceivable or incomprehensible this may appear to us”.
Friends and neighbours of Mrs Keegan described her as a “lady” and a “mother who was entirely devoted to her two boys”.
25/6 November, 2006 Lynn Gibbs, (47) of Kilkenny, drowns her daughter, Ciara (16), in the bath before trying to kill herself with a meat cleaver. She was subsequently found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
On the day of the killing, Mrs Gibbs and Ciara, who were alone in the house, had gone to Dublin earlier for Ciara to attend a maths lecture.
That evening, after their return home, Mrs Gibbs’ friend Dr Marese Cheasty, a psychiatrist, visited the house and talked to Mrs Gibbs who was “low in herself and depressed.”
Mrs Gibbs was worried that Ciara was suffering from anorexia. According to Dr Cheasty, “[s]he talked about the terrible prognosis for anorexia and how she felt Ciara would never have a career or family because of it. ”
At the time of Ciara’s death, Mrs Gibbs was a consultant locum psychiatrist working with the HSE in Kilkenny. She herself had a history of anorexia and depression and had attempted to commit suicide when she was younger.
Her mother Iris Hutchinson had also suffered from depression and had committed suicide by drinking weedkiller. Mrs Gibbs had been prescribed a number of anti-depressants within the previous month but had come off them herself as she felt they had not suited her.
Mrs Gibbs came from a wealthy Tipperary family and she and her husband Gerard had known one another since they were children.
Ciara was a straight-A student. Mrs Gibbs was a strict mother and there was some conflict between her and Ciara regarding Ciara’s weight and whether or not she suffered from anorexia.
However, Gerard Gibbs told the jury at her trial that theirs “was a house of love” and that “Lynn loved Ciara”.
At the trial, a statement by Mrs Gibbs to Gardai was read out in which she said “I remember being in the house thinking there was no hope for Ciara and myself. I planned that we both would die”.
January 30, 2007 Eileen Murphy, (26) of Churchtown, Cork, falls from the Cliffs of Moher with her son Eavan (4).
The previous day, Ms Murphy and her son had travelled to Galway. They stayed the night in a hotel before buying tickets for a coach tour to the cliffs.
When the tour bus arrived at the cliffs Ms Murphy leapt off and headed quickly towards the cliffs with her son. The two then disappeared and their bodies were found lying at the bottom of the cliffs.
It was reported that Ms Murphy had a history of depression and had seemed withdrawn in the weeks prior to her death. It was not reported whether she was on anti-depressant medication.
Ms Murphy worked for German car component manufacturers, Kostal, and her family was very well known and highly respected within the Churchtown community.
She was described by neighbours as “a lovely person – shy but very kind. And she was absolutely devoted to Evan”.
In an interview with the Sunday Tribune, Ms Murphy’s mother Mrs Eileen Murphy questioned whether the deaths were deliberate, stating that “I still don’t know what happened, I still have unanswered questions. At the inquest, we felt excluded and didn’t know what was going on all the time. We had no solicitor because we weren’t told we could have one. I complained about it to the coroner afterwards.”
Mrs Murphy also stated that “There were a lot of rumours going around that aren’t true about what happened. Everyone has something different to say about it and we live in a small community. It’s not nice to have people talking about your family. It’s not something we’ll ever get over. Not knowing exactly what happened makes it even harder.”
July 14, 2007 Nollaig Kenneally-Owens, (29), of Kilworth, Cork, drowns herself and her eight-month-old son Tadhg.
Mrs Kenneally-Owens had been living in England at the time of Tadhg’s birth but had subsequently returned to Kilworth.
Her husband Gareth had returned to Cork the previous day for a visit and offered to take Tadhg back to England with him but it was ultimately agreed that Tadhg and Mrs Owens would remain in ireland. Mrs Kenneally Owens then told her husband to go back to bed to rest while she took Tadhg for a walk. Subsequently she and Tadhg were found drowned in a shallow stream.
Mrs Kenneally-Owens had been diagnosed with post-natal depression and was on medication. She had attempted suicide the previous week and – unknown to her husband – her GP had written a medical note to have her admitted to hospital. However, this had not happened.
Mrs Kenneally-Owens came from a well-established and respected Kilworth family heavily involved in GAA. Her father Donal owned a construction firm but had been paralysed following a fall on a building site 10 years previously. The family also ran a bar.
A subsequent obituary described Mrs Kenneally-Owens as “beautiful, elegant… a massive sense of humour and a personality that had to be seen to be believed…The craic and the banter was a joy to behold and she was amazingly witty”.
At the inquest, the jury recommended that greater help be put in place by the Health Service Executive (HSE) for women suffering from post-natal depression.
In particular there was a recommendation that the HSE have psychiatric personnel on 24-hour call, including weekends and bank holidays.
The Dunne family
April 20/21, 2007 Adrian Dunne, (29), of Monageer, Wexford, drugs and strangles his wife Ciara (26) and suffocates their children Leanne and Shania, before killing himself by hanging.
On April 4, 2007 Mr Dunne had made a telephone call to an undertakers in New Ross, Wexford. He had told the undertaker that he had just buried a brother to suicide, had lost his father the previous year and a second brother in a car accident during the year.
He enquired about getting white coffins for adults and whether it was possible to bury one child with each adult. He also enquired about wills and what exactly an ‘executor’ was.
He told the undertaker that it was his greatest fear that his mother-in-law would take his children from him. During the conversation a woman’s voice was heard in the background prompting Adrian Dunne.
Subsequently Mr and Mrs Dunne then visited a solicitor in Enniscorthy for the purpose of making their wills, which were never signed by them, despite numerous appointments at the solicitors. Mr Dunne also contacted Canada Life to express an interest in renewing a joint life policy for €250,000 he had taken out in 2004.
On April 18, 2007, Adrian Dunne made a second telephone call to the undertakers in New Ross about plans for his family’s funeral and, on April 19, a third call was made to the funeral directors before the whole family visited them on Friday, April 20, 2007.
Very specific funeral plans were discussed. After the Dunnes left, the funeral director rang Gardai who were informed by the local child care manager that there was no file on the family, which meant that officially the children were not “at risk”.
At the Gardai’s request, the priest nominated to conduct the funeral, Fr Richard Redmond, visited the Dunnes at home that evening. When he broached the subject of the funeral plans, Ciara Dunne became irate and, in a raised voice, asked if he thought they were going to hurt the children or harm them in any way.
Adrian Dunne then told Fr Redmond that he had inquired about funeral arrangements because the four of them always travelled together in the car and he was worried what would happen if they had an accident. Fr Redmond thought this was very plausible.
Later that evening, Fr Redmond got a curious telephone call from Adrian Dunne, asking if he was at home. When another priest, Fr Cosgrave, called upon the family the following day, at Fr Redmond’s request, the blinds were drawn, the Nissan car was in the drive, but no one answered the door.
That morning, Fr Redmond again phoned the Gardaí and, at 1.30pm on Saturday, the Gardaí called to the Dunne family home, where they found the bodies of Adrian Dunne and his family.
It is thought that the most probable time of death of the two children and Ciara Dunne was on Saturday morning, April 21.
A message in the outbox of a mobile phone found in the home, sent at 10.17am that morning, read: “Please ring father r from Wexford and tel him Ciara and Aidran are so very sorry. We nott going to Livepol. Instad we pick heaven….please for give.”
Mr and Mrs Dunne and their children both suffered from eye defects and Mr Dunne was legally blind. Adrian Dunne had been brought up in Forristalstown, a community which had been served for a number of years by the paedophile priest, Fr Jim Grennan.
Adrian Dunne had lost one brother in a car accident. Another brother – James – had hanged himself in the family home at Forristalstown. one month previously.
It is believed that he did not leave a note of explanation. The day of James’s funeral, Adrian told another brother that he “wouldn’t have the bottle to do what James did to himself”.
Mrs Dunne was the daughter of a well-to-do family from north Donegal and her father, PJ O’Brien, was a former hurler who managed the Donegal county team. Mrs Dunne’s family did not approve of her relationship with Mr Dunne and Mr Dunne was afraid that they would seek to take the children from him. Mr Dunne also had substantial debts.
It was not reported whether either Mr or Mrs Dunne were on medication for depression at the time of their deaths.
At the inquest, Dr Sean Nixon, coroner for North Wexford, stated that Mr and Mrs Dunne:
“Seemed to be in agreement’ when making their plans, But their lives were taken in a misguided belief that life was better somewhere else maybe to heaven.”
Dr Nixon also stated that he thought that both parents may have had matters planned for a little while, “[b]ut they also were very careful and very able to discourage and distract any attention away from what their intentions might have been”.
He said that “all the answers may never be known”, but that “certainly” the husband and wife had a perception that “there was a better life somewhere else, feeling that life here was tough.” Maybe they felt they were bringing their family and the children to a better place, maybe to heaven, he said.
Dr Nixon said the Dunnes loved their children there was no doubt about that. He also said that it was almost invariable that parents and family are “quite united in their intentions” in cases of familicide.
An inquiry (“the Monageer Inquiry”), set up under barrister Kate Brosnan to enquire into the circumstances of the Dunnes’ deaths, took the view that Adrian Dunne was the driving force behind the planning and execution of the deaths of Ciara Dunne and their two children, and there was no third party involvement.
The report of the Inquiry suggested the death of Adrian Dunne’s brother James as a factor which may have contributed to the deaths.
Other factors were: Adrian Dunne s controlling and dominant influence within the family; Ciara Dunne’s docile, childlike nature , which made her compliant and subservient to her husband’s wishes; Adrian Dunne’s ability in isolating his wife from her family; their mounting debts; and the option of a move to Liverpool no longer seeming feasible.
The report of the Inquiry – large sections of which were blacked out to protect the identity of people figuring in the investigation – stated that Gardaí, when they discovered the bodies of the Dunne family, should have taken immediate steps to notify their wider families of the tragic deaths.
It also took the view that Gardaí should have considered contacting Adrian Dunne s family to advise them of the family’s visit to the undertaker.
The report also called for the provision of a national out-of-hours social work service to ensure an appropriate response to serious child protection and welfare concerns. It also recommends greater training for frontline staff, a review of management structures in the HSE and better mechanisms for the early identification of children at risk.
The Dunne case was also considered in the 2012 Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group already discussed above in relation to Sharon Grace.
The Report stated that the family was known to the HSE for five years, from shortly before Leanne was born. The services that engaged with the family were the HSE Social Work Department, the HSE Public Health Nursing Service, the NGO Service, Paediatric Services and Early Intervention Teams.
There were concerns regarding Leanne’s development and a referral was made to the Early Intervention Team. The family moved constantly and services were unable or failed to keep in touch with them.
Both parents expressed difficulties with their extended families and appeared isolated. The case files on Leanne and Shania had “almost no direct information” about them. There was very little interaction with the family by the services recorded on the file and there was no information at all on the outcome of any child protection conferences.
The file consists of numerous copies of the same form. There are no records of any communication with this family during the years from 2005 to 2007 when the deaths occurred.
It was concluded that the services failed to recognise that this family required extra support and that the system of communication within the HSE appeared to be disjointed. In particular, it was not possible to identify any one person/key workers who had access to all the information in relation to the family.
May, 2007 Catriona Innes, (26), of Letterkenny, Donegal, originally from Bundoran, Donegal, kills her daughter, Katelyn (7.) before before taking her own life.
Ms Innes and Katelyn, who had not been seen for several days, were found dead in their home on May 15, 2007. Ms Innes had died by hanging and Katelyn by asphyxiation due to smothering.
The previous Saturday, Katelyn had made her First Holy Communion and the mother and daughter had spent the following day with Ms Innes’ family in Bundoran. At the inquest, Ms Innes’ friend Caroline Gallagher gave evidence that her friend had complained of stress at work and that life in general was tough.
It was also stated by Ms Innes’ mother that, in her final phone conversation with her daughter, Ms Innes had stated that she was not in good form, that she was tired and fed up but did not want to talk about it.
Asked if her daughter was a stressed person, her mother replied that she was “good at hiding things”. Ms Innes’ ex-boyfriend Ronan Brennan also told the inquest that he received a voicemail message from Ms Innes at 10.22pm on Sunday night asking him to call her because she needed a favour. He was going on holidays the next day and did not return the call.
It is not stated whether or not Ms Innes had a history of depression or was on anti-depressants at the time of the deaths. Coroner Sean Cannon said this tragedy highlighted the growing problem of suicide in Ireland.
He said when a person also takes the life of an innocent child it is beyond human reasoning. He said that the case brought home the fact that suicide prevention is everybody’s responsibility and tackling this increasing epidemic of suicide and self harm requires everyone’s support and effort.
Returning their verdict, the jury added a condition that every effort should be made to ensure greater support is made at community level to prevent a tragedy like this occurring in the future.
The McElhill family
November 13, 2007 Arthur McElhill, of Omagh, kills himself, his partner Lorraine McGovern and their five children Caroline (13), Sean (7), Bellina, (4), Clodagh (19 months) and James, (nine months) by burning.
Mr McElhill threw petrol over his partner and children and set them alight before throwing the can from a window of the family home.
At the inquest, it was stated that he did so because Ms McGovern had threatened to leave him following disclosure of his affair with a 16-year-old girl. Mr McEhill, initially described as a hardworking caring family man, had a number of convictions for assault on teenage girls and had recently set up a Bebo account for grooming purposes.
Dr Michelle Mellotte told the inquest that she had prescribed anti-depressants to Mr McElhill when he attended her practice in September 2007.
At the time, he had described himself as “down and depressed and generally finding things difficult.” She stated that, during the visit, she had asked him questions designed to find out if he was suicidal or homicidal, but the answers raised “no concerns”.
He had subsequently failed to appear for an appointment in October. Subsequently Dr Mellotte herself pleaded guilty to abuse of trust after having entered into an arrangement to borrow the sum of from £10,000 from an Alzheimer’s patient.
Diarmaid and Lorraine Flood
April 25/6, 2008 Diarmaid Flood, of Wexford, shoots his wife Lorraine in bed and smothers his two children Julie and Mark before shooting himself.
On Thursday, April 17, Mr Flood had visited the surgery of Dr James Kirrane. He told Dr Kirrane that he felt depressed about work being quiet and he said he felt low during the winter months.
Dr Kirrane said Mr Flood told him he was waking up in the middle of the night sweating and with heart palpitations. However, when asked about the possibility of self-harm and suicide, he said he would never do something like that.
Following a full physical examination, Dr Kirrane told Mr Flood he was in good health. Dr Kirrane subsequently wrote to St Senan’s Hospital in Enniscorthy to request an appointment for Mr Flood to meet a psychiatrist, but no response had been received at the date of his death. It was not reported whether or not Mr Flood had been prescribed anti-depressants.
The shotgun found at the scene had been given to Mr Flood by a relative, and he had asked to borrow four shotgun cartridges in the days before the tragedy. Prior to the shooting, he took his wife and children on a final swimming trip on Friday, April 25. Reports that Mr Flood made an anguished phone call to a friend confessing what he had done at around 5.45am on Saturday, April 26, were denied by the friend.
Mr Flood was a successful businessman from a well-known Wexford GAA hurling family and Mrs Flood was a former Wexford Rose of Tralee.
At the inquest, Dr Sean Nixon, Coroner for North Wexford, said: “What happened I cannot explain, maybe no one can explain. In cases of familicide, strangely this may have been seen as an act of love by Diarmuid Flood”.
Following the verdicts being returned by the jury, Dr Nixon added: “This has been a very, very hard year for the Flood and Kehoe families. I know the inquest will not bring all the answers. In cases like this, there are no winners, there are only victims Dr Nixon said Mr Flood loved his wife and children and was very close to them.” He said the family had no relationship problems and no financial worries at the time, and that “all the answers may never be known”.
John Butler and daughter Ella
November 16 2010 John Butler (43), of Ballycotton, Co Cork, originally from Cobh, Co Cork, killed his daughters, Zoe (7) and Ella (2), before killing himself.
Mr Butler strangled Zoe and suffocated Ella at the family home after his wife Una had left for work. He subsequently drove to a local petrol station, filled a can with petrol, and set the car alight while driving.
State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy said she could find no traces of alcohol, drugs or prescription drugs in her autopsy on Mr Butler’s remains, and that he died from inhalation of smoke and fire gases as well as extensive burns.
Mr Butler was a former GAA star from a well-known GAA family. He had lost his job at Irish Steel five years previous and then found it hard to get work. He had suffered from depression on and off for some years and had been under the care of Mental Health Services from November 2009 until he was discharged from their care in August 2010.
Although he had been prescribed anti-depressants, there was no trace of prescription drugs in his system at the time of his death.
Mr Butler’s widow, Mrs Una Butler recently stated that she had been waiting for four years from a review from the HSE into the deaths. Mrs Butler stated “It is really frightening how frequently murder-suicides are now occurring in Ireland. But the only time you hear anyone calling for something to be done about them is when the media are writing about them happening.”
She pointed out that, that, in Britain, a 24-page report was automatic when anyone dies in such circumstances within 12 months of having dealt with mental health services. She has also argued for changes to legislation making it mandatory to assess the risk of children of mental health sufferers.
The McCarthy Family
March 7, 2013 Martin McCarthy (50) drowns his daughter Clarissa in shallow water close to his family home at Foilnamuck, west Cork, before drowning himself.
Mr McCarthy left a note setting out out his plans. He and his wife Rebecca had been married for seven years but the relationship had recently broken down.
Mr McCarthy had been in poor health recently and had been treated in Cork University Hospital for a heart complaint before Christmas. Several locals said that, while a shy man, he had been especially subdued over recent weeks.
It was not reported whether or not Mr McCarthy was suffering from depression or had been prescribed anti-depressants.
Mr McCarthy, who also worked part-time for a local vet, was a Fine Gael activist and canvassed for the party in the Cork South West constituency. Each year he played Santa Claus at Ballydehob’s annual Christmas party and regularly played cards in the village.
Former Cork TD PJ Sheehan stated: “Martin was a man you could rely on. He was a professional farmer who was energetic and highly respected. He was absolutely devoted to his wife and child and the little girl was his pride and joy.”
Mr McCarthy’s former schoolmate, Leslie Swanton, said the entire Ballydehob community was devastated by the tragedy: ”He was an absolute gentleman. I knew Martin all my life.”
Sanjeev Chada and his sons Roghan and Ruairi
July 29 2013 Sanjeev Chada, from Ballinkillen, Co Carlow and originally from Magherafelt, Co. Derry, kills his two sons, Eoghan and Ruairi, 5 before crashing his car in Westport Co Mayo.
He had told his wife he was taking them bowling.
Mr Chada, who survived the crash, was subsequently convicted of the murder of his sons, whose bodies were found in the boot of his car.
Mr Chada had worked for a bank before leaving to become an IT consultant. He was actively involved in community activities in Ballinkillen. The Chadas were described as a well-respected family in Magherafelt and well thought of in the community.
No details were given of Mr Chada’s medical history or motive for the killing nor was it reported whether he was taking anti-depressants.
The Greaney Family
December 28, 2014 Michael Greaney (53), of Cobh, Co Cork, stabs his wife Valerie, and injures his daughter Michelle Greaney (21) before taking his own life.
The attack took place at the family home shortly after Christmas 2014.
Mr Greaney had a history of mental illness. In 2013, he had attempted to kill a teenage girl and then take his own life. After a criminal trial, he was remanded to the Central Mental Hospital for assessment but subsequently discharged by Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin to be treated in the community.
A restriction on returning to reside at his family home was lifted in October 2014 with the consent of his wife, following a psychiatric report which assessed that he posed no risk to his family.
Mr Greaney worked as a trained physiotherapist but his Cobh business ran into problems when he expanded shortly before the economic crash.
According to his brother Kevin, he had insisted on treating people who couldn’t afford to pay him. Kevin said: “He’d treated them in the good times and wouldn’t turn his back on them in the bad times. That’s how kind a person he was. But it broke him in the end.”
He had been involved in litigation with three different banks and feared he could lose the family home over his debts. Following his release from hospital, he had been actively pursued by debt collection agents acting for several financial institutions.
Mr Greaney was a Naval Service veteran, had a sporting background, particularly rowing, and had won three All-Ireland medals competing in coastal races. He was a Minister of the Eucharist and also employed as the gardener at the Bishop of Cloyne’s palace in the town.
July 19, 2016 Marco Velocci (28) crashes his car on the main Limerick to Tipperary Road, killing his son Alex.
The crash occurred shortly after Mr Velocci had injured his former partner, Ms Jodie Power, in a domestic dispute. Ms Power suffered a broken arm and a number of stab wounds.
Ms Power had been involved in a long-term relationship with Velocci but the couple had split up two years ago.
Mr Velocci, a tradesman, was born in Ireland and his family had been living there for many years. Mr Velocci’s former sports coach, John Ryan, said Ms Power and Velocci were “childhood sweethearts”.
It was not reported whether or not Mr Velocci suffered from depression or was taking anti-depressants at the time of the crash.
The Hawe Family
August 28, 2016 Alan Hawe (40), of Ballyjamesduff, Cavan, and originally from Windgap, County Kilkenny, killed his wife Clodagh and their three children Liam (13), Niall (11) and Ryan (6).
The killings happened on a Sunday night before Mr Hawe and his wife, also a teacher, were due to start the new school term. Clodagh Hawe was stabbed in a downstairs room of the family home and the three boys strangled and stabbed in in their sleep.
A hatchet and knives were taken away by Gardai for forensic analysis. Earlier that weekend the Hawes had attended a family event in Windgap but did not, as was usual, stay over. The entire family attended a sports event at Ballyjamesduff on the day of the killings, and were described as being in good form.
Alan Hawe left behind a number of notes, including a sealed note addressed to relatives, which appeared to have been written in advance of the crime. It was also reported that Gardai were examining a text sent by Liam Hawe shortly before the killings, which read “out of all evil comes good”.
Alan Hawe was a vice principal at Castlerahan National School and Clodagh Hawe also worked as a teacher. Some of the notes left behind, however, indicated that he might have been under pressure at work and the killings occurred the night before the new school year was due to start.
Mr and Mrs Hawe and their children were active members of the local Catholic Church and Castlerahan GAA club. As a boy, Mr Hawe had been a star GAA handball player.
Neighbours described Mr Hawe as a good man who “never put a step wrong” and the family as ‘very close’. Clodagh Hawe’s mother Mary Coll and sister expressed their forgiveness for Mr Hawe and their support of persons with mental health issues.
Clodagh Hawe’s brother Tadgh Coll had died from suicide some years previously. Mrs Coll was quoted by one source as saying that “if Alan had been in his right mind he would never, ever have touched a hair on the heads of those boys or her daughter. He loved them. Everything he did, he did for them.’
Another relative, however, disputed claims of mental health issues and described Alan Hawe as “a killer.”
The same relative said of Mr Hawe: “He was not an ill man who suffered years of mental torment. He was a man who meticulously controlled and planned every aspect of his evil deed.”
Mr Hawe was not known to suffer any mental health issues, had no contact with the HSE and had no major financial problems. A Garda source stated that he had never been the subject of any kind of complaint.
Alan Hawe’s native village, Windgap, had previously featured in the news in November 2009 when the local postman, Brian Hennessy, was sentenced to three life terms for the murder of a single mother, Sharon Whelan, and her two daughters, Zara and Nadia, on Christmas Eve, 2008. Mr Hennessy first killed Ms Whelan and then set the house on fire with Zara and Nadia inside. He said that the children were asleep at the time and he did not know why he did it, it made him sad that he had taken their mother away at Christmas and he was worried about the murder.
Sources: Irish Newspaper Archive; National Library of ireland; Inquest and court documents; Irish Times, Irish Independent, RTÉ, Evening Herald, Sunday Times and Sunday Tribune.