Thursday 22 February 2018

'Take care of your mam,' father told daughter after he fatally knifed wife

Michelle Greaney is accompanied by family members at Midleton Coroner’s Court. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Cork Courts Limited
Michelle Greaney is accompanied by family members at Midleton Coroner’s Court. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Cork Courts Limited
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A Cork father kissed his daughter on the forehead and said "I know you love me" after stabbing her and her late mother in their family home.

The man, who had a history of mental health problems, asked her to look after her dying mother and then ran into a bedroom to take his own life.

Harrowing details of the deaths of Michael (51) and Valerie (49) Greaney emerged at a Cork coroner's inquest.

Their eldest daughter, Michelle (23), revealed her father's final words were: "I know you love me - take care of your mam."

Despite being stabbed, Michelle managed to flee the Cobh house and survived thanks to emergency treatment at Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Her younger sister, Sarah (18), managed to raise the alarm when she heard screams on the afternoon of December 28, 2014, from the family home at O'Neill Place.

Sarah, who was aware of her father's previous mental health problems, ran and told neighbours to alert gardaí.

Mr Greaney had previously been treated in the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) after having attempted to attack a family member on May 9, 2013.

He then tried to take his own life.

After the inquest, Mr Greaney's parents, Michael and Maureen, pleaded for greater resources for Irish mental health services.

"Some steps have been taken by the Government in relation to mental health but there is a lot more that needs to be done," they said.

"We ask the Government to act sooner rather than later and step up to its responsibilities and provide the necessary funding, support and services to help stem this awful epidemic which is in most counties in the country today."

"They especially hope that the relevant agencies...will have access to on-call forensic psychiatric assistance on a 24-hour basis," said Michelle and Sarah Greaney's solicitor, Frank Kelleher.

Coroner Frank O'Connell was told Mr Greaney was charged with assault causing harm over the 2013 incident but found not guilty by reason of insanity before Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

He had suffered a breakdown over obsessive financial fears. Mr Greaney was later released from CMH, treated in the community and forbidden to live at home.

In October 2014, supported by his family, he made an application to Cork Circuit Criminal Court to be allowed return home.

On October 29, 2014 the court order was lifted and he was allowed to resume living at O'Neill Place in Cobh.

In evidence read out on her behalf by Inspector Eoin Healy, Michelle Greaney said she had been having a lazy day that Christmas when she heard a noise downstairs.

"We had a very close family. We did everything together. We were a close unit," she said.

Around 3pm on December 28, Michelle said things changed "out of the blue".

"I heard a scream. I thought it was Sarah. I heard a second scream. Then I heard a third scream," she said.

Michelle left her bedroom to investigate what was happening and met her father near the stairs.

"Dad looked as if he was in a panic," she said. "He pushed me into the wall (of the library). It wasn't a violent push. It was like he was trying to guide me."

The young woman then realised that her father had a knife in his hand but did not immediately realise she had been stabbed.

"I saw my mam kneeling in a ball by the front door. I heard my mother screaming. I put my arms around her."

Seconds later, Michelle noted that her clothing was wet and realised in shock that it was blood all over their pyjamas.

Her father was still in a panic and Michelle began looking for a key to open the front door.

"He said: 'Take care of your mam.' But it was as if he wasn't there. He (then) went into the kitchen.

"I was looking around for the key so we could get out.

"I kept telling him that I loved him. (He told me) 'I know you love me.' He knelt down to kiss me (on the forehead) and told me to take care of my mam. He then ran upstairs."

Michelle later staggered out of the house, collapsed on the roadway and locals rushed to help her.

Sergeant Ray Coughlan broke down as he described the horrific scene.

"I saw Valerie Greaney on the ground. She was on her knees slumped against the door. She was in her pyjamas. I looked at Mrs Greaney and I could see her face was purple."

When armed gardaí arrived minutes later, it was discovered that Mr Greaney was lying dead on a bed in an upstairs room. Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster found both Mr Greaney and his wife had died due to stab wounds to their chests.

A narrative verdict was returned by the jury.

The Samaritans provide a free 24-hour helpline for people in emotional distress. Tel: 116 123

Irish Independent

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