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Sep 16, 2014
The mother of a killer who had been prescribed anti-depressants has called for an independent investigation in to a string of murder-suicides, saying, ‘we need this now, before more people die.’
Leonie Fennell – whose son Shane Clancy murdered his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend before taking his own life in a knife attack five years ago – has campaigned for five years for warnings to be highlighted on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor drugs (SSRI), a group of anti-depressants that includes Citalopram.
Now she is calling for an independent investigation into a number of murder-suicides, highlighting the Skeffington and O’Driscoll tragedies of earlier this year.
Earlier this month Jonathan O’Driscoll, 20, stabbed his nine-year-old twin brothers, Patrick and Tommy in rural Charleville, Co. Cork, before taking his own life. In June, Shane Skeffington, 21, stabbed his younger brother, Brandon, nine, at their home in Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, before killing himself.
Ms Fennell said: ‘The State must act now or wait for more of these murder-suicide cases to happen.
‘We need an urgent and thorough investigation into why these cases are occurring.
We need the mental healthcare system to be examined in these cases to see what type of care they were getting and what kind of drugs, if any, they were prescribed.’
In the Cork case, Jonathan O’Driscoll had engaged with psychiatric services. Sligo man Shane Skeffington had also been receiving psychiatric care.
Ms Fennell, from Redwood, Co. Wicklow, told EVOKE: ‘The cases are horrific but they are only news for a few days and then they are forgotten like all the rest.
‘Both boys had just been receiving mental healthcare before they carried out the murders.
‘We need to ask what care they were receiving and what drugs, if any, and to investigate any possible side-effects if there were any.
‘If there is no perpetrator to be caught, the justice system moves on – but there are many questions to be answered as to what might have gone wrong in these men’s lives.
‘If there has been an increase in these type of cases it is an urgent matter the State sets up an independent investigation, not led by the HSE, but by an outside agency.’
Ms Fennell’s son Shane Clancy, 22, a student at Trinity College Dublin, had been taking the anti-depressant Citalopram for 17 days before he killed Sebastian Creane, also 22, in Bray, Co. Wicklow, in August 2009. Clancy’s ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Hannigan, was stabbed in the incident.
An inquest into Shane Clancy’s death returned an open verdict, finding that he had died of self-inflicted injuries.
Ms Fennell said that in trying to find out what triggered her son’s out-of-character behaviour, she had faced ‘ignorant’ opposition. She said: ‘I have received hate mail since speaking out about the possible effects of anti-depressants. Years after what happened, I am still getting this mail.
The writers don’t know me but they say I am trying to vindicate my son. They say he was a murderer and drugs were not involved.
‘But these people don’t know me or Shane.
I didn’t choose this life – but with the knowledge I have, I speak out because I saw a peaceful, happy young man change after he was prescribed anti-depressants. ‘He was only on them a matter of days before (the murder).’
At Shane Clancy’s inquest, former Assistant State Pathologist Dr Declan Gilson, who carried out the post-mortem on Shane Clancy’s body, said that he had seen ‘too many suicides’ after people had started taking some types of anti-depressant drugs.
The Trinity student was found to have toxic levels of Citalopram.
Ms Fennell said this week: ‘How many deaths will there be in the meantime, before something is done? In Ireland inquests don’t normally reveal what anti-depressants people have been taking. In the UK, it is standard.
While in the US, there are black box warnings of the side-effects these drugs can have. ‘There is no such thing here.’
Professor Patricia Casey, consultant psychiatrist at the Mater Hospital, said recently of the O’Driscoll tragedy: ‘As soon as we have correct information about the sequence of events, about what exactly happened, that will help the doubting and the questions, and that will, in itself, help people to integrate and process what has happened.’
Dr Íde Delargy, an experienced GP, said: ‘It’s a complex area, it’s not black or white or a quick fix.
‘All medical practitioners, psychiatrists and GPs alike, give very good consideration and appropriate assessment when prescribing anti-depressants and psychoactive drugs affecting the brain and mood.
‘Around the dispensing of that medication, I think that needs to be very carefully considered. Someone in charge of large dosages of medication, needs to be carefully assessed to manage that medication.’