‘I MISS THEM’

THE wife of a man who killed their two young children and then took his own life by dousing his car in petrol and crashing into a wall at high speed has called for a review of certain aspects of mental health care.

Una Butler spoke out at an inquest into the deaths of her husband, John, aged 43, and their two daughters, Zoe, 6, and Ella, 2.

Mr Butler, an unemployed builder, had been a Mental Health Services outpatient from November 2009 until he was discharged from care in August last year — just three months before strangling one of his daughters, suffocating the other and then taking his own life by deliberately crashing his car at high speed less than 1km from the family home.

The inquest heard John Butler had been treated for depression and was again feeling “a bit down” in the days leading up to the triple tragedy on November 16 last at Ballycotton, Co Cork.

In a heart-wrenching statement yesterday, Ms Butler said it never occurred to her that her husband, who was a good person and loved their daughters, could be capable of doing such a thing.

The 40-year-old also said that whereas she acknowledged patient confidentiality was important, she felt that spouses and partners of people with mental illness should be involved in their treatment and that the first concern of the mental health service should always be the welfare of any children involved in such relationships.

Ms Butler told Cork County Coroner Dr Frank O’Connell that she never imagined, or was ever alerted by the mental health service, that such a horrendous event could occur.

She added that her two beautiful daughters “had their lives cut short” as a direct result of her husband’s mental illness.

Ms Butler, who works for the Revenue Commissioners in Cork city, left for work early that morning expecting her husband to drop Zoe to the local primary school and look after their toddler, Ella.

Instead, according to pathologists and senior gardaí giving evidence yesterday, Mr Butler killed the two girls, strangling Zoe and suffocating Ella.

He then drove to a local garage where he filled a container with €20 of petrol, which he used to douse the interior of his wine-coloured Toyota Yaris hatchback before deliberately setting it ablaze and driving it at high speed into a ditch near his home.

The car exploded into a fireball and although he remained alive for a very short time after the crash, Mr Butler’s body was so badly burnt that his remains had to be identified from dental records.

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