Fiona Ness: Killer sought to take place of children's mother, at the ultimate cost
So it begins. Unable to make sense of the brutal killing of Limerick man Jason Corbett, the dissection of the woman co-convicted of his murder, his wife Molly Martens-Corbett, follows.
There has been a conviction, sure, but no clarity. There has been a how and a what and a where and a when, but no conclusive why.
In the emerging narrative, Martens-Corbett is "the pretty and troubled femme fatale". Her father Thomas Martens, also convicted of the murder, is a mere sideshow. Martens-Corbett is front and centre as "the pretty blonde with the killer instinct". She is the "callous killer" who drank margaritas on the school run and "went out of her way to hurt people".
'Wicked Stepmother' may yet turn out to be a more accurate description.
As an au pair who rapidly became an All-American 'mom' to Mr Corbett's children, Sarah and Jack, Martens-Corbett is now morphing rapidly into an evil queen who tried to usurp the place of their deceased mother Mags in their memories. When she realised she could lose them, is it too far to extrapolate that she sought to remove the threat: their own father?
Despite intense scrutiny, Martens-Corbett and her motives remain shadowy and vague. Was she an abused spouse who acted in self-defence, or a wife who snapped, Kiranjit Ahluwalia-style, under sustained marital pressure? Was she motivated to kill by the money she sought to gain from her husband's death, or by love for another?
Or was she motivated by mother-love? After Mr Corbett's death, Martens-Corbett did one thing. She filed custody papers for the children. She lost. She then sought in vain to maintain contact with the children, posting messages online and curating a Facebook version of her life with them.
Standing in shackles after the conclusion of the trial this week, Martens-Corbett was portrayed "like she'd always been - stony faced and ice cold". Yet there is nothing of the stony-faced, ice-cold killer on show for anyone who chooses to pick apart Martens-Corbett's Facebook page, populated as it is with pictures of a radiantly happy woman, squeezing and hugging Mr Corbett's two children from infancy.
But if we know anything about Facebook by now, it is that Facebook lies.
What makes us parents? Martens-Corbett used Facebook to post this response: "Parents are the people who love you, nurture you, care for you, tuck you in at night, drive you to practice, cheer from the sidelines, wrap your Christmas presents, hide your eggs, make you birthday cakes, make you clean your room and do your chores, go on your field trips, change your diapers, teach you your ABCs and how to tie your shoes. Parents are the people you come home to. They are the people who love you unconditionally and support you emotionally, financially, faithfully, forever."
Perhaps Martens-Corbett did all this for Sarah and Jack Corbett. But she also did something else - she sought to replace the children's mother with herself.
Whatever else Martens-Corbett did or didn't do, Mags Corbett deserved to remain present in her children's lives. Anyone, whether a parent, step-parent, adoptive parent or not, must understand this. But Molly Martens did not.
It is unavoidable that among the sheer weight of the tragedy for the Corbett family, we seek to expose the dark heart of Martens-Corbett. Women who kill fascinate with a level of repulsion reserved uniquely for their gender.
In the absence of her personal testimony at the trial, we find ourselves grasping at stray facts that show Martens-Corbett had "issues". We need to believe that she couldn't be just bad, she had to be mad too. As if any of that changes anything now.
Martens-Corbett wrote on her Facebook page that a parent is someone who loves you unconditionally but the real test of a parent is that you love your children absolutely. Mothers and fathers put their children's needs for themselves above their own needs for their children. Mr Corbett knew this, when he sought to create a stable family unit for his children despite his grief upon losing their mother.
When the Corbett children visit the grave of their parents in Castlemungret cemetery in Co Limerick, they kiss the wedding photograph of Mags and Mr Corbett that adorns the gravestone. When they visit the memory of Martens-Corbett, as they surely must, they think "murderer", as Jack Corbett put it in his letter to the court.
So perhaps when we're seeking absent answers as to what made Martens-Corbett a killer, what didn't make her act as a mother is the first question we should ask.