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Heartbroken five- year-old's moving tribute to mother

A HEARTBROKEN five-year-old paid a moving funeral tribute to her mother Helena O'Dwyer, 25, who died trying to save her nephew following a suspected arson attack on their family home.

Courtney O'Dwyer laid the offertory gifts on the altar at her mother Helena's Requiem Mass in Cork yesterday.

Mourners wept as little Courtney brought a series of paintings, her favourite DVDs, toys and mementoes to the altar of the Church of the Holy Cross in Mahon.

One of the films was called A Simple Wish and family friends revealed after the funeral that the little girl's only wish was to get her mother back.

Helena died as she tried to rescue her nephew, Ryan, 5, from an upstairs bedroom in the terraced house at Nutley Avenue in Mahon last Easter Sunday morning.

Like Ryan, she was apparently overcome by smoke and fumes before she could drag the little boy to safety.

Six members of the O'Dwyer family cheated death in the inferno.

Ryan's grandparents, Joe, 55, and Helena Snr, 49, as well as his aunt, Dawn, 22, and cousins Courtney, 5, William, 4, and Katelyn, 2, managed to escape the blazing house -- but were beaten back by flames and smoke as they attempted to get Helena and Ryan to safety.

Gardai are now investigating whether the fatal blaze was caused by a petrol bomb being thrown through the sitting room window of the family home.

The Requiem Mass was celebrated yesterday by Fr Kazimierz Nawalaniec who acknowledged that the entire community was left reeling by the shocking events of last weekend.

The priest said the family and community had been plunged into a darkness that could be relieved only by the light of Jesus Christ. The Mass also featured two of Helena's favourite songs -- Adele's Make You Feel My Love and Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars.

After the Mass, Helena was buried alongside her younger brother, William, 14, who died in a car crash on Cork's Monahan Road on May 30, 2005.

Community leaders have again appealed for public assistance for the garda probe into the Nutley Avenue tragedy.

Within hours of the blaze last Sunday, gardai had arrested a 22-year-old man in Mahon for questioning in connection with the fire.

It later emerged that Helena had been subjected to a terrifying campaign of intimidation and threats over the previous month.

She had received a letter warning that her house would be firebombed and a grim text message telling her she would be shot and which ended with the letters RIP.

All the phones on which the threatening texts were stored were destroyed in the fire. Helena did not want to spend Easter alone at her own bungalow so she had decided to spend the weekend at her parent's home on Nutley Avenue.

The 22-year-old man was subsequently released without charge by gardai.

Councillor Chris O'Leary (SF) urged people to co-operate with gardai and to let detectives get on with their job. On Friday, Ryan O'Dwyer Hayes, 5, was buried as Fr Thomas Ryan told mourners that the entire community was numbed by the events of last Easter Sunday -- and he promised that "evil does not have the last word".

"Someone acting as an angel of death brought death and destruction to the O'Dwyer home last Sunday morning. An outrage was committed against life and goodness," Fr Ryan said.

"It is not an isolated incident. Every day on our newspapers and on television screens we see the spiralling growth of crime."

Sunday Independent