Woman who killed son ‘good person who made mistake’

Suicide note with words ‘bury us together’ found at woman’s home

Collect image of eight-year-old Anthony Ward, who was found dead in his bedroom at his home in Charleville, Co Cork

Collect image of eight-year-old Anthony Ward, who was found dead in his bedroom at his home in Charleville, Co Cork

Mon, Apr 7, 2014, 17:51

A suicide note with the words “bury us together” was found at the home of a Cork woman who admitted smothering her eight-year-old-son in 2012.

Diane Ward (44) of Harrison Place, Charleville had her sentencing adjourned until July 7th by Mr Justice Barry White at the Central Criminal Court today.

Ward had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of her son Anthony at their home on September 3rd, 2012.

Timothy O Leary SC prosecuting confirmed the events surrounding the death of eight-year-old Anthony with Detective Sergeant Michael Corbett.

“The background is somewhat tragic,” said Mr O Leary.

Sergeant Corbett said he received a telephone call from Billy Ward whose sister Diane Ward had contacted him saying she had killed her son.

He said a phone call was received at 9.35am .

“Gardaí entered the home of Diane Ward. They discovered Diane Ward in a back bedroom on a bed with her son Anthony lying beside her. Gardaí checked for a pulse and there was no pulse. The emergency services were contacted. She (Ward) told the detective that she had killed Anthony by smothering him in the early hours of that morning.”

When asked by prosecution if a pillow was used, Sergeant Corbett said ‘that’s right’.

Sergeant Corbett said that on the evening of Sunday September 2nd, 2012 Diane Ward went to bed at 10pm.

He said her son went at 9pm. Ward got up between 3 and 3.30am. She had an envelope with a number packets of Paracetamol and she took these tablets with a glass of water.

“She returned to the bedroom and at this point decided that she would smother Anthony,” Sgt Corbett said.

The court heard that Ward felt that there would be no one to look after her son if she took her own life.

“If she took her own life, she thought there would be no one to look after Anthony,” said Mr O’Leary.

Seargent Corbett said that there had been a major rift between Diane and her family.

“Her brothers and mother live to the front of her house. In 2011 Anthony was diagnosed with ADHD which caused a major rift between Diane and her family. Her brothers and mother felt that his treatment didn’t agree with him. Diane felt it was in his best interest and felt as his mother she was doing the right thing continuing with the medication. There was a constant battle there with her brothers and mother.”

The court heard that Ward had been under pressure in preparation for Anthony returning to school.

“Anthony was due to return to school on the Monday morning and the pressures had been building,” said Sergeant Corbett.

“The envelope with the Paracetamol had a note on it saying ‘bury us together’. At the time, Diane was a 43-year-old mother and had never come to the notice of gardaí. It is a tragedy not alone for the parents but for extended relatives, friends and the community.”

Sergeant Corbett read a statement given by Anthony’s father Mark Ryan.

“I’m getting on with my life. My loss has been traumatic and I am living with the memory of Anthony and all the good times. I miss him dearly. Diane and myself have been friends for 10 years. She is a good person who made a mistake. I wish her well and have no grievance with Diane.”

Mary Rose Gearty SC defending confirmed with Sergeant Corbett that Ward was devastated.

“Miss Ward feels regret in relation to this and is devastated. She had every intention of taking her own life and taking Anthony with her and for the two to be buried together. It was a decision she took that night.”

“His items of school clothing and lunch box were ready for school that morning,” said Sergeant Corbett.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Helen O’Neill of Dundrum Central Medical told the court that Ward suffers from recurrent depressive disorder.

“Miss Ward has suffered from recurrent depressive disorder since 1992. The severity of her first episode required treatment with Electroconvulsive Therapy. In 2010 she cut her wrists following the ingestion of some alcohol and her intention was an attempt at her life at that time.”

“In 2012 arrangements were made for Miss Ward to be admitted to the Central Medical hospital. She was quite severely depressed and commenced on anti depressant and mood stabilizing medication.”

“Her only child was now dead and she would have to come to terms with his loss and the method of how he died. I don’t think Miss Ward is fully aware he (Anthony) is dead. She has never been to visit the child’s grave. She is still at the very early stages of grief. Anthony was the centre of her world. She had invested everything in him and for him.”

“Her risk of suicide has reduced however given her particular situation and the complexity of her loss, the risk of suicide remains high. Miss Ward does not meet the criteria for mental disorder in my opinion.”

Mr Justice Barry White said it would be ‘wholly improper’ for Ward to be released today. “It would be wholly improper if Miss Ward was to be released into society today. I will put the matter back until the necessary support can be put in place. Miss Ward clearly has a desire to return to her own community but there may be difficulties there. I will adjourn the matter until the first Monday in July (7th) to see what if anything can be put in place.”