A woman accused of the manslaughter of her profoundly disabled daughter told gardaí that she was a “demented mother with a screaming child” that morning.
Offaly GP Bernadette Scully, aged 58, is charged with unlawfully killing Emily Barut, aged 11, at their home at Emvale, Bachelor’s Walk, Tullamore, by an act of gross negligence involving the administration of an excessive quantity of chloral hydrate on September 15, 2012. She has pleaded not guilty and is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.
Insp Ger Glavin of Portlaoise Garda Station testified he invited Ms Scully to Tullamore Garda Station on September 20. She attended voluntarily and gave a statement about the death of her daughter, who had severe epilepsy, microcephaly and cerebral palsy.
“As you know, Emily was severely disabled,” she began, explaining that she had taken care of her at home all her life, with the consent of her paediatrician.
“If she was in hospital, they didn’t know how to look after her,” she said.
“When Emily has an episode of colic, she screams and screams. For a few hours, she would be content and then she would scream again. Every time she opened her eyes, she was crying. I find it very upsetting to see her like that. I was doing by best. Painkillers don’t work. Nothing works.”
She said they had tried to manage with dignity: “She was my baby and I just loved her.”
She said Emily had a procedure a couple of weeks earlier. The court had already heard that the child was in pain and not sleeping following this: “I sat with her on my knee all week.”
She said she administered chloral hydrate to ease her pain and stop her seizure at 2am, 6am, and 11am, that Saturday. She said Emily woke around 2am and she gave her the first dose, the normal dose of 10ml: “She woke again around six, screaming. Normally I wouldn’t have given her chloral hydrate twice.
“I had her in the bed with me to comfort her. Emily was screaming and crying. I had to give her more,” she said, later explaining that Emily liked her to hold her.
She said Emily had a terrible fit after her partner left for her nephew’s funeral that morning: “I was really panicked because I hadn’t seen it [so bad] before.” She said she gave her chloral hydrate, again, maybe two syringes: “I know I gave her more than I should have.
“She stopped breathing. Emily was my life. I just thought I can’t live without her…
The fit just wouldn’t stop. It was prolonged,” she said, adding that her legs and arms were jerking.
“I gave her more for the fit. She just stopped breathing and I wanted to die myself.”
She then described her two failed suicide attempts that day, the first while her partner was at the funeral. When this failed, she said she thought she had to get drugs. She wrote out a prescription for medication for her mother and also one for an antidepressant.
“It wasn’t fair, but I sent Andrius to the chemist,” she said, referring to her partner, whom she had met five years earlier.
“I just didn’t want to be around after Emily was gone. People will ask why I didn’t call an ambulance. But I was just exhausted. I wasn’t thinking rationally. I was confused and panicked.”
She recalled: “When Emily passed, I wrapped her up in duvet,” adding that she gave the child her Padre Pio medal and little teddy. “I felt Emily was gone,” she said. “I kissed her and I said I’m coming with you right now.”
She was asked what she thought led to her daughter’s death: “I’m not 100% sure. I think Emily had a massive fit. I’m not sure but I suppose the chloral hydrate could have contributed.”
She said her feeling was that she didn’t harm her: “It was a demented mother with a screaming child. I feel I did my best that night. Why would I do something not to keep her?” she asked.
She said she gave her daughter what she could to stop it: “It did stop the fit, but she also stopped breathing. The first two doses were just to stop her crying; the third was pandemonium. I don’t know how I’m going to live without her.”
Earlier, Paddy Carragher of Quirke’s Medical Hall in Tullamore testified that his pharmacy was where Emily got most of her medication.
Under cross-examination by Kenneth Fogarty, defending, he said such was the volume of Emily’s medicine that Ms Scully’s partner used to collect it in a van.
He said Ms Scully was “so caring in such a difficult situation”: “I’d say it was phenomenal care. In our pharmacy, it was the subject of conversation, how good Bernie was in looking after her for 11 to 12 years, of a very disabled child.”
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