Friday 17 November 2017

North Cork family calls for more funding for psychiatric services after murder suicide tragedy

Beleaguered father killed wife, stabbed daughter before taking his own life

A North Cork family whose son stabbed his wife to death and then attacked his daughter before killing himself have called on the government to provide more funding for psychiatric services to prevent any repeat of the tragedy which befell their family.

Michael Greaney Snr and his wife, Maureen from Ballyhea issued the heartfelt appeal after hearing harrowing evidence at the inquest into the deaths of their son Michael Jnr (53) and his wife, Valerie (49) who died tragically at their home in Cobh on December 28, 2014.

Michael Greaney Jnr moved to Cobh when he joined the Naval Service and he later worked as a landscaper gardener before becoming a physical therapist. On the afternoon of December 28, 2014, he attacked his wife and daughter, fatally injuring the former before killing himself.

On Tuesday, following the inquest at Midleton Courthouse, barrister for Michael Greaney Snr and Maureen, Alan O'Dwyer BL, read a prepared statement in which they spoke of the devastation that had felt as a family as a result of the tragedy.

"While we all hear of such tragic happenings so often nowadays in the everyday news, we never expected it to come to our own and but let us assure everyone that when it does, it brings a devastating and heartbreaking turmoil for the family members left behind."

They acknowledged that the government had taken some steps to address the issue of mental health but they said that more needs to be done to save other families from the emotions of "confusion, guilt, frustration and so many 'if onlys', 'buts' and 'whys' " left in its wake

"We ask the government to act sooner rather than later and step up to its responsibilities and provide the necessary funding supports and services to help stem this awful epidemic that afflicts most counties in the country today."

The inquest had earlier heard how Mr Greaney had invested in properties but came under pressure when the economic crash happened and was struggling with repayments, and he became obsessed with money when he attacked a family member in 2013.

Sgt Ray Coughlan said that Mr Greaney attempted to take his own life after that assault on a family member but was unsuccessful and was hospitalised for a period at Cork University Hospital where he received psychiatric treatment.

He was later discharged and charged with a number of offences including assault causing harm to the family member but he was found not guilty by reason of insanity at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in February 2014 and he was remanded to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum.

Mr Greaney was released from the Central Mental Hospital in May 2014 on condition that he reside outside the family home and remain under the direction of a psychiatrist, which he agreed to do, but Mr Greaney returned to Cork Circuit Criminal Court in October 2014 and applied to return home.

Judge Sean O Donnabhain heard a submission that a consultant psychiatrist had examined Mr Greaney and found that he no longer posed a risk and it would help both his mental wellbeing and family life if he returned home and his family wanted him to return home.

Judge Ó Donnabháin read the report by the consultant psychiatrist before granting the application, and Mr Greaney moved back home that month.

The inquest heard poignant testimony from a statement made to gardai by Mr Greaney's eldest daughter, Michelle - who was 18 years old at the time - about how, after enjoying a normal family Christmas together, her father suffered another psychiatric episode with tragic consequences.

Ms Greaney told how she was in her bedroom when she heard three screams and she emerged on to the landing to discover her father in a panic as he approached her and pushed her back only to realise he had a knife in his hand.

She told how she put up her hand to defend herself but she didn't realise she had been stabbed as she followed her father downstairs to discover her mother screaming as she sat "hunched in a ball just inside the front door on the ground".

She checked a nearby drawer for the front door key but her father took the key from her and said that she didn't need that before she went over and sat beside her mother and put her arm around her as she tried to comfort her after being stabbed.

"I remember being next to my mam and realising that my clothes were wet and when I checked I saw blood on my hands - I didn't think it was my blood and then I remembered the knife and I thought I must have been stabbed.

"I said to my dad 'Don't hurt me, give me the key or the knife', I kept saying this and he said 'I can't do that and take care of your mam'. His mood had changed slightly, it was as if when everything was happening, he wasn't really there and now he was back, aware, but still panicking."

Ms Greaney told how her father went into the kitchen for a minute or so before coming back into the hall but she couldn't remember if he had anything in his hands and he again told her to take care of her mother as he approached her.

"I kept telling him that I loved him and to run away, that I wouldn't tell anyone - he said 'I know you love me' and he bent down to kiss me and I kissed him back and then he ran upstairs," said Ms Greaney who passed out for a short time before managing to make her way out on the street.

The inquest also heard a statement from Mr Greaney's younger daughter, Sarah - who was just 16 at the time - in which she told how she ran from the house just moments after her father attacked her mother in an upstairs room.

"I heard my mam scream upstairs - I heard her shout 'Call the guards' - my first thought was that my dad was after having another mental breakdown," said Sarah Greaney as she told how she ran to neighbour Florence Tabb, who rang the gardai.

Sgt Ray Coughlan told how he and three colleagues arrived at the scene within minutes to find Valerie Greaney bleeding in the hall but they waited for armed back up before going upstairs where they found Mr Geaney lying on a bed with two stab wounds to his chest and two knives beside him.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said that Mrs Greaney had died from shock and haemorrhage due to a single stab wound to the chest which penetrated her heart and liver and which would have killed her almost instantly.

She said that Mr Greaney died from haemorrhage and shock and a collapsed lung due to a stab wound to the chest along with a second superficial chest wound which were consistent with being self-inflicted.

The jury returned a verdict that Ms Greaney died as a result of a stab wound inflicted by another person and that Mr Greaney died as a result of a self-inflicted stab wound before Coroner for South Cork, Frank O'Connell extended his sympathies to the Greaney family on their loss.

"It's not necessary to describe the magnitude of the tragedy - it's very hard to imagine the impact that this has had on the Greaney family - yet it has struck me that Michelle and Sarah should be complimented for the dignity and resilience they have shown in dealing with his tragedy."

Mr O'Connell also paid tribute to Sgt Coughlan and his colleagues, Garda Dave Fleming, Garda Bobby Sheehy and Garda Peter Moran, who went into the house intent on saving lives and not knowing what would confront them, and it was clear it was a very traumatic experience for them.

He also paid tribute to those who attended to Michelle Greaney as she lay on the roadway outside the house with a serious stab wound. He paid particular tribute to 17 year old Jack Hackett and Rochelle Murphy and Florence Tabb who treated her at the scene.

Afterwards Michelle and Sarah Greaney issued a statement through their solicitor, Frank Kelleher in which they expressed hope that any shortcomings identified by a HSE inquiry into their father's care and treatment by various agencies will be addressed.

They said they wished to thank the various services involved in their father's care and treatment, including the Central Mental Hospital, the Cork Mental Health Unit and the HSE both for its treatment and care of their father and the support it has given them.

"Having gone through all of the records made available to them, it is accepted that every professional who was involved throughout Michael's treatment acted in his best interests, doing their utmost to assist in every way possible.

"The family acknowledge that in light of the fact that different agencies were involved, various breakdowns and shortcomings may have arisen inadvertently," said the young women's solicitor, Frank Kelleher, adding that his clients had co-operated fully with a HSE inquiry into the tragedy.

"The family hope that the recommendations of the HSE inquiry in identifying any shortcomings that may have arrive will be implemented in full and assist healthcare professionals in dealing with similar events.

"They especially hope that relevant agencies in the Cork area have access to on-call forensic psychiatric assistance on a 24 hour basis," said Mr Kelleher before appealing to the media to respect the family's privacy.


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