Families united for heartbroken mum
THE grieving mother whose two young daughters were killed by their father last week led mourners at his emotional funeral in Cork yesterday.
John Butler killed his two daughters before taking his own life last Tuesday.
Yesterday, his wife Una, who buried their daughters Zoe, 6, and Ella, 2, in Ballycotton less than 24 hours earlier, was chief mourner as up to a thousand people attended her husband's funeral ceremony in St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh, John's home town.
As the service concluded, John's sister, Catherine, thanked Una's family, the O'Riordans, and told the congregation: "We love you John, you and your little angels will be forever in our heart."
Her words prompted a round of applause from mourners, many of who were moved to tears by her words.
Fr John McCarthy, who celebrated the mass, spoke of the shock in the community after news of the tragic events broke last Tuesday, telling the congregation: "Last Tuesday will be a day forever etched in our hearts.
"As the facts emerged we were left with prevailing sadness and disbelief at the suddenness of John's departure . . .
"We are full of mixed feelings . . . Our hearts are filled with shock and sorrow. We have many unanswered and unanswerable questions."
But he said this was also a time to remember the good times. Fr McCarthy recalled John as a family man, a man who had great love for his wife, Una, and who doted on his girls, playing with them, reading them stories and buying extravagant presents. He said John had many talents and strengths, and listed hurling, football and bowls as just some of the things he will be remembered for.
Representatives from both families said readings and prayers. John's sister Catherine singled out Una's family for particular thanks, and all those who sent their condolences and support to the families. She also praised the gardai, the health authorities and the clergy, whom she said had gone beyond the call of duty.
Men from Cobh GAA club formed a guard of honour for John, who captained the intermediate football team in 1993.
Both the Butler and O'Riordan families displayed extraordinary composure over the two days of sorrowful funerals that concluded after noon yesterday, when John's body was brought to the Island Crematorium at Ringaskiddy.
The previous day, Fr Aidan Crowley told mourners at Zoe and Ella's funeral mass that "love was the theme" of their mass. The "whys and the wherefores" were for another day.
In that spirit, Una Butler laid a single rose at the spot where her husband died, before the funeral cortege continued to Cloyne Cemetery were her two little girls were laid to rest.
Meanwhile, gardai will launch an appeal at masses in Ballycotton today for anyone who saw John during a crucial 20-minute period before he died, to contact them.
After he killed the children, John went to a Top garage to buy a can of petrol at 9.20am. He crashed his car at 9.40am, after dousing himself in fuel. Gardai want to hear from anyone who saw him in his distinctive red Toyota Yaris during that 20-minute period.
Gardai at Midleton are preparing a report for the coroner on the tragedy and are trying to examine John's state of mind. The 43-year-old, who suffered from depression, was said to be particularly low on Tuesday morning, according to sources.