Mum’s frantic calls went unanswered as dad murdered his beautiful girls

Clodagh Sheehy

Una Butler made several frantic calls to her husband just before he killed their two children, it has emerged.

Mrs Butler was worried about her husband's state of mind and made a series of phone calls to him after she left their Ballycotton home for work at around 7.30am on Tuesday.

John Butler, however, never answered the phone.

The unemployed builder strangled one daughter and suffocated the other before taking his own life in a horrific crash.

Postmortem exams on the bodies of two-year-old Ella and six-year-old Zoe, have concluded that the little girls died of asphyxiation.

They had been placed carefully side-by-side in the front bedroom of their bungalow home.

John Butler's body had to be identified through dental records. His remains were severely burned after he deliberately crashed his car into a ditch about a mile from the family home.


Gardai now know that he spent €20 on petrol at a filling station in Shanagarry, two miles from his home, half an hour after he killed his daughters.

He was on his own in his Toyota Yaris when he went into the petrol station at 9.20am. He put the fuel in a container.

It is believed he doused the inside of the car with the petrol before driving it into the ditch where it burst into a fireball on impact. It has emerged that the 41-year-old, who was a loving father but was troubled by depression, gave no indication that anything was wrong when he was at the petrol station.

"He didn't say a word, but he in no way looked upset or traumatised," said one source.

Gardai are investigating whether the father-of-two was depressed over financial difficulties. The former steel worker and builder, originally from Cobh, had been unemployed for a number of months.


The bodies of the two children and their father were released last night. The children's remains were taken to the family home in Ballycotton but Mr Butler's remains were taken to Cobh where his parents live.

The children's grandmother has spoken of the family shock.

Mary O'Riordan said the terrible events were simply "too shocking for words. We're all in shock, no one can believe it. They were such beautiful children, they would call to see us a lot. I can't believe they're gone."

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

Mrs O'Riordan said her daughter Una was getting every possible help from her closeknit, devoted family and was staying with her sister as friends tried to comfort her.