Daughters will be 'with me forever', says grieving mum
THE heartbroken mother of two young girls killed by their father revealed yesterday that she will never understand why he did it but he was a "good person".
Ella (2) and Zoe (6) Butler were found dead, wearing their pyjamas, in front of a television showing cartoons at the family home last November.
A short time before they were found, their father John (41) died when the car he was driving crashed into an embankment near the family home at Ballybraher in Co Cork.
The girls' mother Una Butler attended the inquest, at Cork Coroners' Court, into the three deaths yesterday, and delivered a harrowing victim impact statement.
"For reasons that I'll never understand, John took the lives of our precious daughters Zoe and Ella," Ms Butler said.
"At this time of unspeakable anguish in my life, it is very difficult for me to make sense of the events that occurred."
"It would never have occurred to me that John was capable of acting out in the manner in which he did," she added.
"Living with someone with mental illness is extremely difficult. Whereas issues such as patient confidentiality are important, I feel spouses and partners should be involved with their treatment and that the first concern should be the welfare of children."
Catherine Butler, John's sister, said "John was down on himself" around the time of the incidents. A number of other witnesses at the inquest made similar observations.
Mr Butler had been treated as an outpatient for depression up to three months before the tragedy. He had lost his job as a crane driver one year before.
Garda forensic and crime scene investigators said Mr Butler, who had minutes before loaded his car with a petrol-filled five-gallon drum, accelerated at speed through a crossroads and into the embankment, clearly intending to harm or kill himself.
The inquest heard that neighbours' and relatives' immediate concern, on hearing of the fatal accident, was for the lives of the children and they made their way to the Butler family home.
When they discovered the house was locked, they broke in and found the two girls dead in the living room.
"Ella was lying in the middle of the floor in her jammies," said the girls' childminder, Anne O'Riordain. "And Zoe was on the couch, turned towards the wall."
Coroner Frank O'Connell also heard that the room was warm and that a "triangle of toast" lay on the floor. He told Una Butler that he realised "how precious they are to you and there are no words that can offer comfort or condolence".
The seven-member jury quickly delivered its verdict that Zoe had died by asphyxiation due to manual strangulation "by a known person".
It ruled Ella had died by asphyxiation due to smothering "by a known person", and that John Butler died as a result of "inhalation of smoke and fire gases, and burns" which were self-inflicted.
"It is so sad that my beautiful girls have been taken from me," Una Butler said.
"John was a good person and he loved Zoe and Ella but I am now only left with the memories of our beautiful daughters Zoe and Ella who loved life and brought so much joy," she continued.
"They are with me forever and are keeping me strong."