Monday 19 February 2018

'They were beautiful children, I can't believe they're gone'

Una Butler with her daughter Ella
Una Butler with her daughter Ella
A garda at the scene where John Butler died in a blazing car
John Butler
Zoe Butler who died with her sister Ella

Ralph Riegel

A grandmother yesterday spoke of her family's shock after the murder of her daughter's children at the hands of her crazed husband.

Zoe (7) and Ella (2) Butler were strangled by their father, John Butler (41). Minutes later he doused himself in petrol before crashing his car on the outskirts of Ballycotton village in east Cork. He died in the subsequent fireball.

It is now believed that Mr Butler had been depressed and increasingly frustrated over his inability to secure new employment having lost his job over a year ago.

Yesterday, Mary O'Riordan said the terrible events of the past 24 hours and the death of her two granddaughters was simply "too shocking for words".

"We're all in shock, no one can believe it," she told the Irish Independent.

"They were such beautiful children, they would call to see us a lot. I cannot believe they are gone. It is all such a shock, they were such lovely children. They were always smiling and happy," she said.

Zoe had already been excitedly preparing for Christmas and had been making out her present list for Santa Claus.

Mary's husband, Don, was too upset to speak to the media yesterday.

Mary said that her daughter Una was now getting every possible support from her close-knit, devoted family and was staying with her sister as friends tried to comfort her.

Una left the family home at 8am on Tuesday to go to work and was horrified when gardai contacted her shortly after 10am to break the news that her husband and two children were dead.

Una's sisters raced to be by her side and escorted her back to Ballycotton from Cork.

Four years ago, the family lost Una's brother, Michael, after he suffered fatal injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Una -- who has a twin brother -- works in the Revenue Commissioners office in Cork city.

Yesterday, gardai focused their investigation on confirming the last known movements of Mr Butler before his death at 9.40am.

It has now emerged that the Cobh-born former Gaelic footballer bought €20 worth of petrol at a Shanagarry filling station at 9am on Tuesday.


Gardai believe the two children were dead at this stage and now want to clarify Mr Butler's movements in the final 40 minutes of his life.

The two children were discovered dead in a front bedroom of their bungalow home -- after Mr Butler carefully arranged their bodies side-by-side.

Post-mortem examinations by a team of three pathologists continued throughout yesterday at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and the funerals are not expected to take place before tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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