Liz Dunphy: Cork hit again by horror of family murder-suicide

More than 30 murder-suicide cases have been recorded in Ireland since 2000.
Liz Dunphy: Cork hit again by horror of family murder-suicide

The bodies of the Hawe family arrive at the Church of St. Mary in Castlerahan in County Cavan. Picture: RollingNews.ie

Cork county has been hit yet again by the horror of a family murder-suicide.

More than 30 murder-suicide cases have been recorded in Ireland since 2000, and at least 146 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in their own home or by family or partners since 2000.

The deaths of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons at the hands of her husband Alan in 2016 prompted the establishment of a review into familicide and domestic homicide last year, in order to improve the State’s recording of and response to these tragic crimes. 

Many of these cases have tragically occurred in Co Cork in recent years. 

Two-year-old Ella and six-year-old Zoe Butler were killed by their father John, who then took his own life in Ballycotton, Co Cork, on November 16, 2010. Since their deaths, their mother Úna has campaigned for reform of the Mental Health Act 2001 so that family members can be involved in their loved one's treatment for mental ill-health.

Mr Butler had been receiving treatment for depression before their deaths and Ms Butler believes that her children would still be alive today if she had been informed of and involved in her husband’s care.

Clodagh Hawe's death led to a review into familicide.
Clodagh Hawe's death led to a review into familicide.

Her daughters are believed to have died from strangulation or asphyxiation.

Zoe was wearing her school clothes when she was found side by side with her little sister in a front room of the family bungalow.

Mr Butler, 41, a construction worker who had been unemployed for more than one year before the deaths, had doused himself in petrol before crashing his Toyota Yaris into a ditch on the Shanagarry-Ballycotton road. The car exploded into flames.

In another tragic case, Valerie Greaney, 49, was fatally stabbed by her husband Michael Greaney, 53, at their home in Cobh, Co Cork, in December 2014.

He also stabbed their daughter Michelle before kissing her forehead and asking her to look after her dying mother, before killing himself.

Mr Greaney, a naval service veteran, had been admitted to the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dublin after attempting to kill a teenager and take his own life in 2013 but was released from full-time residential care after just six weeks.

Valerie Greaney: Fatally stabbed by her husband Michael Greaney at their home in Cobh, Co Cork.
Valerie Greaney: Fatally stabbed by her husband Michael Greaney at their home in Cobh, Co Cork.

His brother Kevin Greaney previously told the Irish Independent that there had been “obvious failures in his treatment regime” and he should have been kept for longer in residential care.

“I have absolutely no doubt that Michael’s death and the tragedy that happened was a direct result of the chronic underfunding of Ireland’s mental health system for years,” said Mr Greaney.

“These kinds of tragedies will keep happening until we learn lessons and put proper systems and resources in place.” 

Tragedy hit another Cork town, Charleville, when nine-year-old brothers Paddy and Thomas were killed by their brother Jonathan O'Driscoll — who was being treated for severe psychosis — before he took his own life on September 4, 2014. 

Jonathan had collected his four brothers from school and creche while his parents were collecting a present for the twins’ birthday that afternoon.

However, as the twins were changing out of their school clothes in their bedrooms a short time later, he attacked them, stabbing them more than 40 times.

Jonathan, 21, then took his own life on the banks of the Awbeg river in nearby Buttevant. 

An inquest into the deaths later heard that a relationship break-up, a close cousin's suicide, his search for information about his birth family, and concerns over a pending court appearance linked to a minor road traffic offence sent Jonathan spiralling into depression.

Although he had engaged with mental health services he stopped taking his medication days before the murder-suicide.

And in March 2013, three-year-old Clarissa McCarthy was murdered by her father, West Cork farmer Martin McCarthy, 50, who then killed himself. 

He left a suicide note in the family farm in Ballydehob for his wife, Rebecca Bailey-Cejnar, the child's mother, saying he feared she would take their daughter back to her native California as the marriage was falling apart. 

Mr McCarthy drowned his young daughter and then killed himself at the beach near their home.

He was buried holding Clarissa in his arms in a single coffin.

  • Pieta House: 1800 247247; Samaritans: 116 123 or text 087 2609090.

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
Revoiced
Newsletter

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from irishexaminer.com, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up