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Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Murder-suicide' mother's vibrant exterior masked an inner turmoil

Sinead Higgins's tragic tweet in the days before the deaths gave a hint that all was not well for the legal adviser

DEVASTATING: The bodies of Oisin O’Driscoll (7) and his mother Sinead Higgins (37) were found at their home in Ruislip, West London, last Wednesday morning
DEVASTATING: The bodies of Oisin O’Driscoll (7) and his mother Sinead Higgins (37) were found at their home in Ruislip, West London, last Wednesday morning
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Photographs show her as a confident young woman - exuding glamour with a slick of lipstick, and personality with kooky spectacles.

But this vibrant appearance masked the inner turmoil of a Mayo girl suspected of taking her own life and that of her son in the latest devastating case of murder-suicide to rip through an Irish family.

Last Wednesday morning, the body of Sinead Higgins (37) and her seven-year-old son Oisin O'Driscoll were discovered by police, who broke into her home in Ruislip, West London.

Post-mortem tests conducted on Friday were inconclusive. In a statement, detectives said they were awaiting the results of further toxicology tests. They were satisfied that the deaths of Sinead and her son were consistent with a murder and a suicide.

It will be several days before the funeral arrangements can be made for Sinead and Oisin, who come from Aughagower parish, near Westport, where local people are still trying to come to terms with the tragedy, not least to understand it.

Sinead grew up in a large family of nine children. Their family was struck by tragedy. Her brother, Cathal, died in motorbike accident in 2004, aged just 19. Her father, Thomas, died two years ago.

Sinead's mother, Mary, remains in the family home in Aughagower. As with many families in west Mayo, her brothers and sisters are scattered all over the country and beyond.

Sinead moved to London when she was 21. She trained as a nurse and worked for several London hospitals and, according to tributes paid to her in the past few days, Chelsea footballers were among the patients she treated.

In recent years, Sinead retrained as a medical legal adviser - a job she was working when she died.

She had Oisin with her partner, but the relationship did not last.

She had described herself at various times on social media as a "fun person" and a "proud mama" to her son. But in recent days, Sinead sent what is now a haunting tweet, which said: "The future looks very", followed by an emoji of a tornado.

One neighbour, Barbara Lonnan, who lived close to Sinead in Ruislip, told reporters there were signs that all was not well.

"She's going to be really missed, she was a lovely girl," Barbara said.

"When she first came here two years ago she was really bubbly but gradually she got more and more depressed.

"It was so sad to see. I told her there are people who can get you help but I don't think she ever went." Barbara told reporters that Sinead became depressed after the relationship ended.

She said: "I think it was because of her boyfriend and life in general getting on top of her. She also said the landlord had put up the rent and she didn't know how she could pay for it.

"It still hasn't sunk in she's gone, I just can't believe it.

"I know she was depressed but to take him as well - her family must be devastated."

Barbara said she saw Sinead for the final time on December 10.

Sinead's ex-partner was believed to have raised the alarm with police when he learned Oisin had not shown up for school at St Swithun Wells' Catholic primary school nearby.

The police arrived at Sinead's house at 10.50am on Wednesday. Inside, they found the bodies of Sinead and Oisin.

The police have revealed few details about the case, other than to confirm that the tragic deaths of mother and son was a case of a murder-suicide.

The deaths have hit Sinead's Mayo community and beyond.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who is from Castlebar, knew her family.

When he was asked about the tragedy while he was in Brussels last week on government business, he said: "I'm shocked actually, I know that family very well.

"It's a particular tragedy for a very large family, a very well-respected family, and people I know so well. When I got that message here in Brussels, I have to say it went through me."

Local people echoed the Taoiseach's sentiments. Christy Hyland, a Fine Gael councillor, and John O'Malley, a former councillor, were among those who sent their sympathies to a well-known and well-liked family.

Detective inspector Dave Bolton, from the Homicide and Major Crime Command unit in London, has asked people with information to come forward.

He confirmed that inquiries so far led him to believe that the "tragic events that led to the deaths do not involve a third party".

Sunday Independent

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