The Butler family home in Ballycotton

Dad who killed his two little girls described as ‘a good man’


The Butler family home in Ballycotton

The heartbroken mother of two young Cork girls killed by their father, who later committed suicide, has described her husband as a ‘good man’ but admitted she will never understand why he did it.

Una Butler’s daughters Zoe (6) and Ella (2) were found dead in their pyjamas, in front of a television showing cartoons at the family home in Ballybraher, County Cork, last November.

Their bodies were discovered a short time after their father John (41) died when he crashed his fuel filled car into an embankment near the family home.

Mum Una attended the inquest at Cork Coroners Court when she delivered a heart wrenching victim impact statement.

“For reasons that I’ll never understand, John took the lives of our precious daughters Zoe and Ella,” said Una.

“At this time of unspeakable anguish in my life, it is very difficult for me to make sense of the events that occurred.

“It would never have occurred to me that John was capable of acting out in the manner in which he did.

“Living with someone with mental illness is extremely difficult. Whereas issues such as patient confidentiality are important, I feel spouses and partners should be involved with their treatment and that the first concern should be the welfare of children.”



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John’s sister Catherine Butler said: “John was down on himself” around the time of the incidents. A number of other witnesses at the inquest made similar observations.”

The Court heard that John Butler lost his job as a crane driver the year before the deaths and had been treated for depression as an outpatient up to three months before the tragedy.

Mum Una added: “It is so sad that my beautiful girls have been taken from me.

“John was a good person and he loved Zoe and Ella but I am now only left with the memories of our beautiful daughters Zoe and Ella who loved life and brought so much joy.

“They are with me forever and are keeping me strong.”

Neighbors and relatives feared for the safety of the children as soon as they heard of the crash that killed their father and made their way to the house.

They had to break into the locked house when the horrific discovery was made.

“Ella was lying in the middle of the floor in her jammies,” said the girls’ childminder Anne O’Riordain. “And Zoe was on the couch, turned towards the wall.”

The jury returned a verdict that Zoe had died by asphyxiation due to manual strangulation ‘by a known person’.

It also ruled that Ella had died by asphyxiation due to smothering ‘by a known person’ and that John Butler died as a result of  ‘inhalation of smoke and fire gases, and burns’ which were self-inflicted.


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