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No easy answers to a sad and tragic tale

A SEARCH FOR JUSTICE: DEATH IN BRAY (TV3)

IT'S probably overstating the case to say that Lisa-Marie Berry's feature-length film A Search for Justice: Death in Bray represents a significant turning point in TV3's factual programming. But it was certainly several notches above what we've come to expect from the crime documentaries the station churns out.

The killing five-and-a-half-years ago of 22-year-old Seb Creane by Shane Clancy (also 22), who then took his own life at the scene, remains one of the most shocking tragedies in recent memory.

Having given Seb a lift home from the pub one night in August, Shane, a teetotaller, went to a branch of Dunnes Stores at 3am, bought a set of kitchen knives, returned to Seb's house around an hour later and stabbed him multiple times. Seb bled to death.

Seb's girlfriend, Jennifer Hannigan, who'd previously been in a three-year relationship with Shane that ended only the previous January, had arrived at the house in the meantime.

She was concerned when Seb called her to say that Shane had been acting in a strange and threatening manner.

Shane stabbed Jennifer in the back, puncturing her lung, but she managed to escape from the house and alert a neighbour. Seb's parents, Jay and Nuala, were on a trip to Penzance at the time.

When Seb's younger brother Dylan, who was upstairs, came down to see what the commotion was about, Shane stabbed him in the back too, nine times.

Dylan's girlfriend, Laura Mackey, who was also in the house on the night, called the emergency services. Shane then went into the back garden and killed himself. Nineteen stab wounds were found on his body.

TROUBLED

Berry's film, which featured frank, in-depth interviews with the Creane, Clancy and Hannigan families, was concerned with what happened before and after that terrible night, and also with how the Irish media didn't exactly cover itself with glory with its coverage of the tragedy (one of the crasser tabloid headlines characterised Shane as a "knife nut").

He was, in fact, a deeply troubled young man who'd been suffering from the darkest of depressions. Though he'd been the one to initiate the end of his and Jennifer's relationship, which they both agreed had run its course, once she hooked up with Seb he became obsessed with her, bombarding her with texts and letters to the point where she reported it to the gardai.

They said they were powerless to intervene because no law had been broken.

Simultaneously worried about Shane and scared of him, Jennifer said: "He was in a bad way. He was just falling apart."

One of the doctors Shane had seen prescribed a month's supply of the anti-depressant Citalopram, which Shane swallowed in one go. The question of the role his medication may have played in the tragedy is a bone of contention between the families that means there can be no closure.

Psychiatrist Dr David Healy, who represented the Clancys at Shane's inquest, puts the blame for his behaviour that night on the side effects of Citalopram.

Professor Patricia Casey, speaking for the Creanes, said there is no research to support this claim, and that Shane was suffering from mental illness when he did what he did.

The coroner recorded an open verdict, rather than suicide.

Prior to the inquest, Shane's parents appeared on The Late Late Show. The Creanes, who weren't contacted about the show by RTE and have since unsuccessfully tried to have the inquest reopened, feel let-down, and claim the ensuing debate about the side effects of anti-depressants has pushed the tragedy of Seb's death into the background.

"It dilutes what happened to Seb," said Dylan Creane. "It turns it from being an intentional act into nothing more than an accident."

This was a balanced, compassionate treatment of a sad and tragic story with no easy answers.

A Search for Justice: Death in Bray HHHHI


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