'We hoped he would get the help he needed' - family of teen who killed himself and brother (9) speak out after case settled against HSE
The family of a young man who fatally stabbed his nine-year-old brother before taking his own life have settled a High Court action against the HSE.
Shane and Carmel Skeffington, who have three remaining children, and live at Banada, Tourlesrane, Co Sligo, had sued the HSE over an alleged failure to take care of their son, Shane junior, when he was a patient at Saint Columba’s mental health facililty in Sligo in May 2014 .
The settlement was without admission of liability and the terms are confidential.
Eoin McCullough SC, for the family, that it was a very tragic case where Shane Jnr assaulted his brother and then killed himself.
Counsel said it was their case that had there been better treatment available at St Columba's , there may not have been that outcome. The claims were denied.
The parents returned from a Sunday afternoon grocery shopping trip to town to their Sligo home five years ago to discover their eldest son, Shane Jnr (19), who was on babysitting duty,had stabbed his brother Brandon with a knife, leaving him fatally wounded. The young man then took his own life.
His father performed resuscitation with advice from the ambulance and continued it for 45 minutes.
Mr Skeffington found Shane Jnr in the shed adjacent to the family home. He was on the ground and had taken his own life. On arrival at hospital, both were pronounced dead.
Speaking on RTÉ's Six One News this evening, their mother Carmel Skeffington said: “It’s hard without them, but we’ll keep their memory alive. It’s all we can do.”
Discussing the day the incident happened in 2014, Ms Skeffington said the pair knew their was "no hope" when they found their son Brendan.
“We had gone shopping and came back later that evening when I found Brendon [Don]. I went to dial 999 and Shane administered CPR, which he did for about 45 minutes. We knew there was no hope, but we kept trying.
“After the paramedics came, Shane found Shane Michael (Jnr) outside in the shed. We were just numb, our world turned upside down.
“We could have never imagined that Michael could have done anything like that. He was so loving and caring and was great with Don. Even now, we can’t get our heads around how something like that could have happened.
“Michael and Brandon got on really well and had never fallen out. He spoiled him, they would go away for the day and he took care of him. He really loved his little brother and his little brother really loved and looked up to him.”
She said that following an “incident” involving his father, Shane Michael was taken to Saint Columba’s mental health facility by his parents.
“We hoped he would get the help he needed,” added Ms Skeffington.
After, Shane Michael had been discharged a short time later, and Ms Skeffington said they still didn’t understand what was wrong.
She added that they saw some positive signs in her son’s behaviour in the weeks before the incident, but acknowledged that he would spend a lot of time isolated in his bedroom.
“I think people need to be educated and know what to look out for,” she said.
“The help needs to be there, definitely.”
Outside court, Ciaran Tansey, solicitor for the Skeffingtons, said it was a tragic case, and the family hope now to draw the matter to a close.
"This was a particularly traumatic experience for the Skeffingtons." he said.
"Matters that arose on the evening of July 20, 2014, will never be forgotten. As far as Carmel and Shane are concerned, they love their children enormously.
"They are their beloved Shane Michael and their beloved Brandon. And they will forever remain so," he said.
He added: "Unfortunately the trauma will live with the family for the rest of their lives. What I would say, however, is that the pleasant memories of their beloved Shane Michael and Brandon will never be forgotten."
The Skeffingtons had sued the HSE for alleged negligence and breach of duty. It was claimed Shane Jnr had been allegedly discharged on leave with absence from St Columba's on May 20, 2014 considering him to be of ‘ no immediate risk of harm to self or others,’ when clinical notes allegedly recorded him as being aggressive towards a member of nursing staff that same day .
It was further claimed Shane Jnr had been discharged from the mental health system on May 28 /29 when allegedly there had been no examination by a psychiatrist or a medical practitioner since his discharge on leave of absence .
Mrs Skeffington, it was claimed, is constantly under a dark shadow and is deeply traumatised by the events.
Her husband also continues to suffer from anxiety and grief and suffers from continuously disturbed sleep patterns, it was further claimed.
All the claims were denied.
Approving the settlements, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said it was a sad and tragic case.