Mother: My girls would be alive today

The mother of two girls killed by their father says she believes her daughters would still be alive if medical professionals had involved her in his treatment.

John Butler, who suffered from depression, killed his daughters Zoe, 6, and Ella, 2, at the family home in Ballycotton in Co Cork on Nov 16, 2010, before taking his own life.

Una Butler yesterday said she had urged medical professionals to admit her husband to hospital for treatment for depression when she had concerns about him being suicidal after he went missing in 2009. However, she said her pleas were ignored and she was told it was her husband’s choice to admit himself to a hospital.

In an interview with TV3’s Ireland AM yesterday, she said she believes her children could have been saved if she had been more involved in the medical care of her husband.

“In my case, I believe my family’s tragedy could have been prevented had I been involved,” said Ms Butler.

“I am very angry with him and there is a part of me very sad for him, because John was good person and he wouldn’t have done something like this.

“The only reason my girls are dead is he was suffering with his mental health. I never thought we were in danger. I never thought John could do something like this. That was the vacuum I was living in. When I did raise concerns I wasn’t even handed out a phone number.”

The case is now being investigated by the Mental Health Commission.

Ms Butler said her husband’s personality changed due to post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered following a car accident six weeks after their marriage.

She said she had tried to get her husband admitted to a psychiatric hospital the year before he killed their daughters when he went missing as she believed he was feeling suicidal.

“When you are living in the situation, you are living in a vacuum,” said Ms Butler. “I cried out for help. You put your trust in the medical professionals and believe they know what they are doing.”

She told how she had an “awful feeling” that something was wrong that made her leave work and drive home to check on her children the day they died.

A call from her sister as she neared home confirmed her worst fears. “I said: ‘Are the girls alight?’ She said ‘No’. So I just put the phone down and continued driving... I didn’t think this could ever happen.”

Kathleen Lynch, minister of state with responsibility for mental health, said she sent a copy of Ms Butler’s submission on families being more involved in the care of mental health patients to the group set up reviewing the Mental Health Act 2001.


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