The mother of a young man who stabbed his twin brothers more than 40 times before taking his own life has made an emotional plea to people experiencing mental health difficulties to seek help.
Helen O’Driscoll, who lost three sons in the murder-suicide in Charleville, Co Cork, last September, has also called for more funding for Ireland’s mental health services.
Fighting back tears after a triple inquest yesterday into the deaths of three of her five sons, she said: “If I had one message for little children, boys and girls and adults, suffering with depression and sickness, don’t wait for their parents to be sick and broken-hearted like us.
“Go and find help, no matter what phone you pick up, what friend you tell, there is somebody out there that will listen to you.
“And for God’s sake, before your parents end up broken-hearted like us, get that bit of help while you’re able.”
The inquest heard harrowing details about the deaths of her 9-year-old twins, Patrick and Thomas — known as Paddy and Tom Tom — and her adopted son, Jonathan, 21, last year.
The bodies of the twins were found in their home at Deerpark, near Charleville, just after 4.30pm on September 4, 2014, after their younger brother, Jimmy, 5, raised the alarm with neighbours.
The twins had been attacked in separate bedrooms as they were changing out of their school clothes.
Dr Michael Curtis, the deputy State pathologist, said each boy had suffered more than 40 stab wounds.
Patrick suffered penetrating wounds to vital organs, as well as several defensive wounds. Dr Curtis said the penetrating wounds would have proved “rapidly fatal”.
Thomas also suffered multiple stab wounds to his back and torso.
He did not have typical defence wounds and would have died quickly.
Dr Curtis said the cause of death in both cases was multiple stab wounds.
Jonathan’s body was found several hours later in woodland alongside the River Awbeg in Buttevant, about 15km away. He had taken his own life.
The inquest was told that Jonathan, who had been struggling with and was being treated for depression in the months before the incident, and who had been diagnosed with early onset schizophrenia and psychosis, had stopped taking his medication before the tragedy.
He had bought a knife in a local co-op, and had researched stabbings and a method of suicide on the internet, the inquest heard.
The jury was also told that he left four disturbing notes — including one for each of his parents — the contents of which were not disclosed.
Coroner Dr Michael Kennedy said medical evidence about Jonathan’s psychiatric history, combined with the contents of the letters, reflected a disturbed mind at the time of the stabbings, and, as a result, he said the verdict of unlawful killing in relation to the twins’ deaths was not open to the jury.
The jury later returned open verdicts in relation to both twins, and a verdict that Jonathan took his own life.
Speaking outside afterwards, Ms O’Driscoll said the inquest was another step for her family on the difficult road to resuming some form of normal life.
“Every day is like a million years, and it will be like that for the rest of our lives,” she said.
“I just hope that there is no other family out there will be like us ever again.
“We did try to help John. We did our living best to help him. They [the medical profession] did what they could do,” she said.
“Sometimes things go wrong but sometimes you are sparing your whole family of what we’re going through now.
“I hope to God no son or daughter will leave their families go through what we’re going through now.”
She also thanked all those who have and who continue to help and support her family through their grief.