News Irish News

Sunday 17 December 2017

Mother who killed her son is found dead

Shane Phelan

TWO investigations have been launched after a mother who killed her son apparently committed suicide in prison.

Gardai and prison authorities are probing the death of Ruth Murphy, who was discovered dead in her cell yesterday.

Murphy (48) had been serving a life sentence for the murder of her seven-year-old son Karl, whom she drowned at a Wicklow beach in 2001.

Prison insiders said she was found in her single cell at the Dochas Centre women's prison at Mountjoy in Dublin, with a plastic bag over her head.

An initial medical examination found she had suffocated. Foul play is not suspected.

Murphy, from Ashford, Co Wicklow, had a history of alcohol abuse and had spent time at the Central Mental Hospital before she was committed to prison.

She had not been involved with the psychiatric services in recent years and had taken a full part in regular prison life, including working for a time in the kitchen.

Murphy was discovered by prison officers yesterday at around 1am during a routine check on her cell.

Medical assistance was called and she was rushed to the Mater Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Murphy never revealed why she killed her son. She had married her husband John in 1991 and they ran a printing business together.

However, they separated 18 months before Karl's murder.

Murphy had a serious alcohol problem and was taking tranquilisers at the time. She was also the subject of a barring order from the family home.


On June 21, 2001, she had a supervised visit with her son at the home of his babysitter.

That evening, she took Karl while the two people babysitting him were out of the room and left the house, bringing him to the north beach in Greystones, where they drank Coke and ate sandwiches.

Sometime before 10.30pm, she drowned her son and left him fully clothed on the beach.

Gardai were looking for her at the time after her husband had reported his son missing.

A scout leader raised the alarm after spotting Karl's body on the beach.

Murphy was subsequently found close by in a cave in an incoherent state.

Her clothes were wet and she had an alcohol level of 123mg per 100ml of blood and traces of the tranquilliser Librium in her system.

She originally denied killing her son. During the investigation, Murphy gave gardai a number of implausible explanations for her son's death.

However, she decided to plead guilty when the trial began in 2004. It emerged in court that she had held Karl under the water until he stopped moving. Handprints were found on the boy's neck and six "finger-sized" bruises were consistent with "forcible drowning".

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News