TO A TOURIST, the subdued mood in the seaport town of Cobh probably seemed no more than a dose of the post-Christmas blues, but for locals the picture was far darker.
In an estate high above the town, a lone garda stood sentry outside the gates of a two-storey house where a husband and wife lost their lives in an apparent murder-suicide last Monday.
To add to the tragedy, Michelle Greaney, the 22-year-old daughter of the victims, Michael and Valerie Greaney, remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition.
Their youngest daughter, 16-year-old Sarah, is being cared for by relatives and is understood to be deeply traumatised.
On the face of it, Cobh, no more than any other town, was on a wind-down from the festivities yesterday. Christmas decorations were still in evidence, even outside the end-of-terrace Greaney home at Philip O’Neill Place, where outdoor icicle lights swung bleakly above the porch and an unlit reindeer stood in the front garden.
Valerie Greaney was a native of Cobh and her marital home was next to her childhood home. Just last month, she buried her own mother, Mary, at St Colman’s Cemetery, a stone’s throw from her doorstep. It was outside the gates of St Colman’s that Michelle was found last Monday after fleeing her home, with a stab wound to her chest.
Up the road, in the nearby Costcutter Store, the mood was sombre yesterday. Staff member Madeline Doyle said the family were regular customers.
“They were always in and out of the shop. Everyday. They seemed happy as Larry,” she said, and “a lovely family”. They were dog lovers, they had two bichons; sometimes Sarah chatted with Madeline’s daughter Amy about dogs because she had a Maltese.
Valerie and Michael “seemed such a happy couple”, Madeline said, adding that Valerie worked part-time as a secretary for her husband’s physiotherapy clinic at Sandymount in the town, and part-time at Gill’s traditional fish and chip shop. A notice on the front door of Gill’s yesterday advised customers the premises was closed for the day in a show of condolence for the Greaney family.
Just a couple of hundred metres down the road, beneath the shade of a daffodil-yellow canopy, the doors were also closed at the premises of Michael Greaney’s clinic, across the road from the imposing St Colman’s Cathedral.
Local businessman John Mansworth said Michael’s clinic “had a good name” in the town. Michael had a sporting background, particularly rowing, and had become interested in treating sports injuries.
“He seemed like a quiet type of guy. He married into a very quiet, respectable family,” John said.
Michael hadn’t attracted any negative attention until an incident in recent years where he ended up in court on charges of false imprisonment and assault, for which he was subsequently found not guilty earlier this year by reason of insanity.
People were very surprised when accounts of this incident emerged, John said adding that “There were never any signs that anything was wrong”.
Behind the cathedral, Fr John McCarthy was dealing with media queries.
The parish administrator, who was chief celebrant at the funeral in November 2010 of John Butler, who took his own life after killing his two young daughters Zoe and Ella in Ballycotton, Co Cork, said the people of Cobh were devastated.
He had met Michael Greaney, a minister of the Eucharist, on Christmas Day on the steps of the cathedral.
“He seemed fine. He was with his wife. I wished him a very Happy Christmas.”
That was his final contact with Michael, Fr McCarthy said, adding that Michael was well-known in the town.
“Somebody so well known, especially the time of year it happened, everything just adds to the complete shock and the distress. Cobh, despite being a big town, is in many respects a small close-knit community; a lot of relations and family connections, so everybody would have known Michael. The fact that his practice is only a few yards from the cathedral, such a public place, such a publicly-known figure really. So yeah, people are very upset.”
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