Sunday 17 November 2019

'Daddy we can help you, just don't do it' - child's plea to father as he attempted to murder him and his siblings

The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin
The Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin

Alison O’Riordan

A child told his father “Daddy we can get you help, just don’t do it" as the man attempted to murder him and his three siblings, the Central Criminal Court has heard this evening.

The man, who in his 30’s, pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of his four young children and will be sentenced next week.

The stay-at-home father, who cannot be named, previously admitted to four counts of attempted murder at his family home in the south-east of the country on June 3, 2016. The man’s four-year relationship with his wife had broken down the previous month and there had been “unhappy differences” between them which seemed to affect him badly.

The man, who has a history of depression, attempted to strangle two of his children and left them when he thought they were dead before moving onto the other two children in the next bedroom.

He told gardai he was texting his wife and she had sent him a text message saying it was “time to stop crying” and to tell the children "what he wanted".

Mr Justice Michael White made a court order today that the father and his children could not be named nor any evidence published which would lead to the identification of the family.

At today’s sentence hearing Detective Garda Fergus O’Brien summarized the facts of the case.

Det O’Brien agreed with prosecuting counsel, Paul Burns SC, that the defendant was living with his wife and four children in the south-east of the country when the event occurred on the evening of June 3, 2016.

The man was minding his four children for the evening as his wife was going out for the night. According to Det Gda O’Brien, the defendant’s father was in a nearby house minding other grandchildren when his son arrived at the house at 7.20pm saying: “I hurt the kids, I’ve done something stupid to the kids.”

The grandfather ran over to his son’s house and saw two of the children who were in a “panicked state” in the driveway. The grandfather found the other two children on their backs in the main bedroom, one was crying and the other was unconscious.

He contacted the emergency services and managed to revive one of the children. Gardai arrived on the scene shortly afterwards and an air ambulance was deployed to the house.

Det Gda O’Brien agreed with Mr Burns that two of the children’s faces were purple and their eyes were blood-shot. They were gasping for air and had red marks on their necks.

The other two children were treated with oxygen by paramedics in their bedroom and one of these was in a critical condition. They were later accompanied by their mother in a helicopter to the hospital.

The father-of-four was located by gardai and he was asked a number of questions. He told gardai he was planning on killing himself when he found out his wife was going on a date that evening and he did not want his children upset that he had taken his life.

“I thought if I killed them they wouldn’t be upset. I thought I had to do it,” he said.

The man said when he went to strangle two of his children, they looked at him and asked him what he was doing.

He told gardai he had a history of depression and had been diagnosed with social anxiety. Det Gda O’Brien agreed with counsel that the man told gardai he was trying to kill his children saying, “I didn’t mean to do it, I thought it would make them happier.”

The man was arrested and a number of garda interviews were conducted with him. He told gardai during his interviews that he was upset as his wife of four years was going on a date with another man who she had been texting since January. “I thought the marriage was good, anytime she wanted to go I let her go out,” he added.

The defendant said he had been crying that evening in his house and his children were worried about him. He told gardai he was texting his wife and she had sent him a text message saying it was “time to stop crying” and to tell the children "what he wanted".

He said he started tickling two of his children in their bedroom and then his hands began to “strangle” them as he pressed down on their neck with his thumb. “I kept going until they were dead and I kissed both of them of the foreheads and left them where they were,” he said.

Two other children were playing Xbox in their bedroom, the man told gardai, and they did not know what had just happened. The man then grabbed two of them “at once” and put his hand up against them at the same time. The man said to them that it was their mammy’s fault and one of them replied: “Daddy we can get you help just don’t do it.”

The court heard he did not have the energy to “hold any longer” on their necks and he left them go before getting help from his father. He had contemplated killing his children and his wife six years ago, the court heard.

When asked by gardai if he was reckless taking his medication, he said he had been without tablets for a few days and was now only taking one a day.

The man said he intended to kill himself after taking the lives of his children, adding “then we would all be free”. He also told gardai he was going to stab himself repeatedly and the reason this happened was because he got a text from his wife saying it was time to stop crying and there was no point “letting it all hit you now”. He replied saying: “See you really don’t care about anyone but yourself, you will regret all of this”.

A medical report was read to the court in which the doctor said the four children’s injuries were consistent with a serious assault by their father and there was clear medical evidence of an attempted strangulation by him.

A psychiatric report was also read to the court in which it said the children had suffered severe trauma that night and they had lost their safe environment. Their world had been turned upside down overnight, Mr Burns read, and things would never be the same again.

Defence counsel Patrick Gageby SC said his client had a tendency to stay at home and was not good about going out which was possibly related to "some class of depression".

It was decided in 2009 that as he was not working much he would devote his time to the children and their mother would work outside the home.

Under cross-examination by Mr Gageby, Det Sgt O’Brien agreed that both parents were extremely attentive parents with happy and active children. The barrister said the man was an excellent father and people spoke well of how the children had turned out. His wife, he said, had never made any complaint of him raising his hand to her or the children.

Mr Gageby said his client got depression in 2009 and got help in a local hospital which had a psychiatric aspect to it. Det Gda O’Brien agreed with counsel that he was prescribed medication to deal with the depression which he had reduced leading up to this event.

It was quite clear he believed he had killed two of his children but soon came to his senses, the court heard, as his hands started to hurt him and he was not able to complete what he set out to do. The defence of insanity was not available to his client, Mr Gageby added.

The mother-of-four took the stand and read a victim impact statement on behalf of her and the four children in which she described how their lives had changed.

The children’s mother told the court she will never forget receiving a "horrible voicemail" from her eldest child screaming and a Snapchat from them of one of her other children on the bed. “I knew in my gut something crazy had happened,” she said.

She said the hardest part after the event was watching her son, once a bubbly boy, wearing sunglasses in the house as his eyes were very bruised.

She said they were the bravest children one could ever meet and she was so proud of them all.

“All the children know what is happening here today, they all know their daddy did wrong. They know you have to say sorry when you do wrong and one has to be punished,” she said.

The woman said she was happy that her ex-husband had not put her through a trial and she hoped that sometime he could say sorry “in his own words” to their children. “I’m ready to move on, stop looking over my shoulder, stop living in fear and locking the door,” she said. 

Mr Gageby then read a letter of apology on behalf of his client in which he said: “Anything I say or do will not change what I’ve done or make it better, I want you to know how much I regret it and how sorry I am for putting my four beautiful children through this. The proudest moment of my life was the birth of my kids and they still continue to make me proud every day.”

In his submissions, Mr Gageby said there was a background of mental health, a reduction in medication and as well as a martial break-up. 

Mitigating factors included his client’s plea, his deep shame for what had happened and his remorse, said Mr Gageby.

Mr Justice Michael White remanded the man in custody until October 17 when he will be sentenced.

 If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.

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