They have also revealed how little Caitlin gave them eight of the happiest years of their lives before her mother Triona killed her on her First Communion weekend and then took her own life.
Now, in a tribute to both, the Innes family are organising a first anniversary fundraiser for Triona’s favourite charity.
Triona’s mum Winnie Innes and her two other daughters, Trish and Charlene, recalled in their first interview since the tragedy how they are still desperately trying to understand what happened. Although the precise time of the deaths has yet to be established — an inquest is still pending — the family believes single mum Triona and little Caitlin were dead within a few hours of their last contact with them.
At her home in Tullaghan, Co Leitrim, less than 4km from where Caitlin, dressed in her First Communion outfit, spent her last day alive at a seaside funfair and posed for pictures on the beach at Bundoran, Co Donegal, Winnie Innes spoke of her grief.
“There are no words to describe how I felt when I heard what happened. It still pains me to think about it. It is just unreal, like a nightmare.
“There wasn’t a hint from Triona, not the slightest indication that anything was wrong. We had spent a lovely weekend together,” she said.
Triona lived in Letterkenny where Caitlin received her First Communion on Saturday, May 12, last year in St Eunan’s Cathedral. Mother and daughter were joined by other members of the family on the day and all enjoyed a celebration meal.
The following day, they returned together to Bundoran as a special treat for Caitlin and so she could show off her Communion dress to other relatives and friends.
Winnie said: “Caitlin spoke non-stop about the dress. It was my sister’s wedding dress which was made into a Communion dress for her daughter and then passed down through the family.
“Caitlin talked for weeks about the dress before the big day. She got a new tiara and she thought she was a little princess,” she said.
“She just loved it all. She was a real dressy-up little girl. She loved style. She loved appearance. She had her hair done that morning the way she wanted to. She was a real outgoing little girl, a real jolly girl.” Winnie said Triona was in exuberant mood. The day before she had collected the keys of a new council house she and Caitlin would share. She was set to take up a good job for which she was well-qualified through a business studies course she completed at Letterkenny IT two years earlier and she had paid the deposit on some new furniture for the house.
The only thing not going her way was an on-off romance, which had ended four weeks earlier. Even that seemed to the family not to have caused any great concern to Triona, although the last phone call she is believed to have made was to the estranged boyfriend. The call was not answered.
Winnie said: “It was just a missed call. She didn’t even leave a message.”
Records show that call was about a half-hour after Triona spoke by phone from Letterkenny to her mother about the great day the family had together in Bundoran. There was nothing to suggest at that stage that anything was amiss.
Just an hour or so beforehand, Caitlin had sent a text saying they were safely back home in Letterkenny.
The following day, Caitlin wasn’t at school. When she was still missing the next day, the alarm was raised and mother and child were found dead in their home.
Gardaí believe Triona suffocated Caitlin and then hanged herself. No note was left.
Winnie said: “There was nothing on the laptop or phone. Nothing.! The guards said they made a specific point of searching for a note. They were almost a week in the house looking for a note or a sign.”
Trish, 26, a Health Service Executive clerical officer in Sligo, recalled how she first realised something was amiss on the Tuesday. Her mother phoned to say there had been no word from Triona and that her friend had been over at the house, and saw that the car was still outside and everything appeared to be normal.
“Her stuff was sitting on the coffee table in the sitting room but there was no answer from the door and no answer from her mobile,” said Trish.
A short while later, Trish called in to the Bundoran home of her older sister, Amanda, mother of Caitlin’s only first cousin and close friend Bethany Innes.
Trish said: “When I got there the guards were leaving. They had come to tell her.
“It was a complete shock. Triona and Caitlin had left us on Sunday evening and nothing was wrong and then on Tuesday they were found dead.”