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Killer mum denied son's photo before her suicide

AUTHORITIES turned down a plea from tormented Ruth Murphy for a photograph of the son she murdered, prison sources claimed today.

Her request came after she made a tearful visit under escort to the Co Wicklow grave of seven-year-old Karl.

Prison sources said that she had contacted senior management at the Dochas women's Prison, where she was serving life, in a bid to get a specific photograph.

They in turn got in touch with the Irish Prison Service, which turned down the request.

The 48-year-old woman who had served more than six years, visited her son's grave in Killoughter cemetery, Ashford, two weeks ago.

She had visited her only child's grave on a monthly basis but it is understood that the visits had been cut back in recent months.

It is understood that she visited her son's grave on August 5 and had done so on numerous occasions since she was put behind bars.

The grave is still adorned with flowers.

Ms Murphy was described by staff as "a troubled soul who gave no trouble" and was eligible to go before the parole board for a sentence review.

"She never came to adverse attention at any time," said a staff member. She was in the Cedar house in the complex , a unit considered privileged.

Its residents are free to come and go within the House as they please and are subject only to three visits during the night -- every three hours from 12.30am.

It was during one of these checks that she was discovered by a senior female officer.


She was in the shower room behind a curtain with two plastic bags over her head and a wire tightened around her neck.

A prison source said photos and items relating to victims would almost never be given to prisoners.

An official spokesperson for the prison said however, it had no record of Murphy's request.

Tragic Karl Murphy was found lying face down on a beach in Greystones with bruising on his shoulders and neck showing that he had been forced under the water.

His mother was found cowering in an incoherent state in a cave near the scene 20 minutes after Karl's body was discovered. She has never given an explanation as to why she murdered her son.

Sources told the Herald that she died through suffocation after placing a plastic bag over her head and tying it around her neck.

Murphy, who had her own room, is understood to have gone into a communal area of the prison and made herself a cup of tea shortly before she killed herself.

Gardai and the prison services are now conducting separate probes into the death.

The case is the first suicide in the women's prison for a decade and only the second since the Dochas Centre opened in 1999.

Murphy had a history of alcohol abuse and had spent time at the Central Mental Hospital before she was committed to prison. She had not been involved with the psychiatric services in recent years and had taken a full part in regular prison life, including working for a time in the kitchen.

She was rushed to the Mater Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

In the opinion of psychiatrists, she was not legally insane when she forced her only child's head under the water.

Murphy was a chronic alcoholic and her condition worsened on the death of both her parents in the mid-1990s.

She had married John Murphy in 1991 but they separated 18 months before Karl's murder.


Murphy was taking tranquilisers at the time of the murder and was also the subject of a barring order from the family home.

On June 22, 2001, the hottest night of the year, Karl was being minded in the home of Donal and Jacinta Walsh when his mother called.

She waited until the couple were out of sight, then ran upstairs, bundled Karl into her car and headed for the N11 and Greystones. They stopped near the North Beach and had Coca Cola and sandwiches.

Sometime before 10.30pm, she drowned her son and left him fully clothed on the beach.