A man who suffered a mental breakdown while under severe financial pressure stabbed his wife to death and critically injured his eldest daughter before taking his own life, an inquest established yesterday.
At a double inquest into the deaths of Michael Greaney, 53, and his wife, Valerie, 49, coroner Frank O’Connell heard how Mr Greaney had been under severe financial pressure, and was struggling with mental ill-health.
In her statement, which was read into the record, their eldest daughter Michelle said she and her younger sister Sarah were raised in a close, tight-knit, loving family that did everything together.
She recalled how they baked, played board games, and went for walks in the woods, and how she helped her dad with landscaping. She remembered how proud he was while teaching her to ride a bike.
“He was very hardworking and was proud of his family,” she said.
Michelle said she and her sister had a traditional upbringing, and that there was nothing out of the ordinary.
But Sergeant Ray Coughlan said that while they were a typical Irish family, Mr Greaney was under considerable financial pressure following a number of property investments made during the boom.
He said Mr Greaney was struggling with repayments, was embroiled in legal issues with the banks and had become obsessed with money — all of which contributed to a mental breakdown.
He said that, unbeknownst to his family, Mr Greaney had become obsessed with money, and medical records showed that he felt life was not worth living, and that he did not want his family to suffer.
The sergeant told the coroner of an incident in May 2013 when Mr Greaney became violent.
He attempted to take his own life immediately after that incident and was found by gardaí, who brought him to Cork University Hospital for treatment.
Following his discharge from hospital, Mr Greaney was arrested and subsequently charged with false imprisonment and assault.
He was remanded in custody to receive urgent medical attention and was transferred to the Central Mental Hospital amid fears that he was a danger to himself and to others.
Mr Greaney went on trial before Cork Circuit Court in February 2014 and was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was remanded back to the Central Mental Hospital.
He was released in March under strict conditions, which included that he not return to the family home, and that he remain under the care of a psychiatrist.
He moved into an apartment in Cobh but in late October 2014, he made an application to the courts — an application which was supported by his family — to have the restrictions lifted to allow him return to the family home.
Following consideration of medical reports which advised that he was no longer a risk to his family, and that it would be of benefit to his mental health, he was allowed to return home.
Within two months, he would attack and kill his wife, and attack his eldest daughter Michelle.
Despite her injuries, Michelle escaped and collapsed outside, where she was treated by several people including Jack Hackett, a member of the Irish Red Cross Cobh branch who came upon the scene. He was praised for his role in saving her life.
The jury returned a verdict that Mrs Greaney died of injuries inflicted on her by another person and that Mr Greaney died of a self-inflicted stab wound.
In a statement afterwards, Mr Greaney’s parents, Michael Sr and Maureen, said they deeply regret the trauma and immense loss which Michelle, Sarah, and Valerie’s extended family have all suffered and can only hope that time will heal their broken hearts.
In a statement issued through their solicitor, Michelle, Sarah, and Mrs Greaney’s family described Michael as a loving father and husband, and Valerie as a dearly loved and devoted wife and mother who supported Michael throughout his illness. They also said they do not seek to hold anybody or person responsible for the tragedy.
Mr Greaney’s brother Kevin said he adored him and described him as “a saint to all of his family”. He also said Michelle’s harrowing evidence proved Mr Greaney loved his family.
“Her father realised what he was after doing halfway through it,” he said. “He never intended for any of this to happen. He broke down. If he had not broke down, he would have finished off Sarah or Michelle which he did not. His love for his family came through.”
However, he said there were still a lot of unanswered questions about Ireland’s mental health services.
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