Hundreds of candles will be lit in Limerick on Tuesday night for two Irish children at the centre of a custody battle in America.
Relatives of Jack and Sarah Corbett whose father Jason Corbett (39) was found dead at his home in North Carolina earlier this month are expected to attend the candlelit vigil taking place outside City Hall on Merchant's Quay.
The outcome of a custody hearing to determine whether or not Sarah (8) and Jack (10) will remain in the care of their American stepmother, Molly Martens Corbett, or be allowed return to Ireland with their aunt Tracey Lynch and her husband David is expected on Thursday.
The Lynch’s who were appointed legal guardians to the children following the death of their mother Mags Corbett in 2006 attended a seven and a half hour custody hearing at Davidson County Courthouse in Lexington, North Carolina last Friday.
Mrs Lynch who is Jason Corbett’s sister has not been allowed see her niece and nephew since she arrived in North Carolina two weeks ago.
Her 39-year-old brother was found dead at his home in Panther Creek in Wallburg following what police have described as a domestic incident on August 3rd.
Mr Corbett’s American wife Molly Martens – who previously worked as his children’s au pair following the death of their mother – has been questioned by police in relation to his death.
A social media campaign “Bring Jack and Sarah home” has been launched to highlight the case of the children who are in the care of their stepmother in America.
Campaigners have 500 candles which they are inviting people to light to show their solidarity with the Corbett family and the children’s maternal grandparents and relatives.
"We are inviting people to come out on Tuesday night to show their support by lighting a candle. The symbol of the candle is lighting the way to bring Jack and Sarah home, " explained one of the organisers Mary Fitzpatrick.
Mrs Fitzpatrick who also helped establish a fundraising appeal “Jason’s Journey” to help the Corbett family with their extensive legal costs confirmed €16,000 has been raised so far.
“It’s only a small hole in the bills that they are facing, but we have other fundraising events planned so we will continue. We also set up a paypal account as we have had an amount of donations from America.”
Jason Corbett’s remains were repatriated last week by The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, but his family has said he will not be buried until his children are back in Ireland.
“We have been told that a decision [on the custody hearing] is likely on Thursday. They are emotionally and physically drained and have had no time to grieve because of the big legal challenge facing them,” added Mrs Fitzpatrick.
The candlelight vigil will take place at 8.15pm at City Hall in Limerick and Mayor of Limerick Cllr Jerry O’Dea is expected to address the crowd.
“Some of the Corbett family will also be there and they might speak if they are up to it. We are asking as many people as possible to come and light a candle and then we will stand in silence for a few minutes to think about Jack and Sarah,” added Mrs Fitzpatrick.