Mother tried to sedate three children on night before she killed them, court told

Deirdre Morley has pleaded not guilty to murders of Conor, Darragh and Carla by reason of insanity

The trial of a woman for the murder of her three young children has heard her detailed description of how she suffocated her two young boys and her 3-year-old daughter in their family home when feeling “overwhelmed”.

The court heard that, in interviews with gardaí four days after the killings, Deirdre Morley explained that she felt she hadn't been a good mother and had not loved her children enough.

She felt should could not continue to live, and did not want to leave her children behind her.

She told gardaí that she wanted to save her children from the “pain and suffering” she felt lay before them because of her shortcomings as a parent, and that she had intended to kill herself after she had killed her children.


Ms Morley (44) of Parson’s Court, Newcastle, Co Dublin, is charged with murdering her sons Conor McGinley (9) and Darragh McGinley (7), and her daughter Carla McGinley (3). She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The bodies of the dead children were discovered by their father in their home on Friday, January 24th, 2020, after he had returned from an overnight business trip to Cork.

Opening the case before Mr Justice Paul Coffey and a jury of 10 men and two women Ann-Marie Lawlor SC, for the prosecution, said that Ms Morley, who is a trained nurse, had administered medicine to the children on Thursday evening, January 23rd, but they "spat it out".

At the time she was planning to sedate her children, prior to suffocating them, but when she abandoned the plan she felt “relieved”.

However on following day she killed the children, by suffocating them, and has admitted to doing so in subsequent interviews with An Garda Síochána.

As the charges against her were read out, Ms Morley sat in the accused bench staring straight ahead, wearing a white face mask and dark clothes. For the duration of the day’s hearing, she sat straight backed, facing the court.

Murder is not just about the act of killing, Ms Lawlor said, it also means, in law, that Ms Morley had the capacity to intend to kill the three children.

What the evidence would be primarily concerned with in the case was the mental capacity of Ms Morley. “There is no issue about what happened.”

Loving parents

Ms Morley is married to Andrew McGinley, who worked for a workplace services company, and they had three children.

A neighbour had said they were both “one hundred per cent devoted to their children,” the court heard.

There was no question other than they were both loving parents and that the children were well cared for, Ms Lawlor said.

“They [the children] had a happy life. There is no doubt about that,” Dec Sgt Dara Kenny told the court.

The couple had a good marriage, but the marriage had been challenged in the year prior to the alleged murders, Ms Lawlor told the jury.

Ms Morley had suffered a breakdown in July of 2019 and had spent four weeks in a psychiatric hospital. Her extended family were very involved in caring for Ms Morley and believed her mental health had improved.

On January 23rd 2020, Mr McGinley left the family home to travel to Cork for work and had no reason for any particular concern.

On that evening, Ms Morley attempted to take the lives of the children by administering medicine, putting morphine in the cereal of the boys. They tasted it and spat it out. Another substance was put into Carla’s bottle.

While she had planned to suffocate the children that night after having sedated them, she then changed her mind. That night the two boys slept in the bed with her “as a treat”, something they did sometimes when their father was away.

She told the gardaí that, that night, she had felt relieved she hadn’t killed her children. She had also thought: “I can’t do it, but I don’t know how I am going to go on.”

Ms Lawlor said the jury will hear from psychiatrists about the mental state of Ms Morley at the time of the killings. It was a “desperately sad case”.

Dec Sgt Kenny said that two days prior to the killings Ms Morley had conducted online searches about making a noose, and had purchased a rope on the 23rd. She had also done searches about the flyover on the N7 near her home.

On January 24th she suffocated the three children, first killing her two youngest children while Conor was in school.

She first suffocated Daragh. She later suffocated Carla, and placed her on the bed in the master bedroom, beside Daragh’s body. Discovering that Carla was not dead, she had to try again before succeeding.

During the morning Darragh, who had been kept home from school because he was unwell, had become upset when she had told him he had spent enough time watching TV and his iPad.

There had also been a row between Darragh and Carla over whether she should be allowed play with his Hulk toy.

In interviews Ms Morley told the gardaí that she could recall looking at the clock around midday and thinking; “I could do it now. I think that is when something clicked with me.”

She said she could remember thinking: “I could smother him now. I could kill him now.”

In the trascript she began to tell the gardaí about going to get tape and a bag but then said: “I’m so sorry. I just want them back.”

She said that on January 24th at 12.39 pm she received a Whatsapp message from a niece about an upcoming wedding, and replied; “So exciting.”

By this time, Dec Sgt Kenny said, Darragh was dead, and Carla may have been.

Ms Morley then went to Conor’s school in Rathcoole and collected him early. They stopped at Tesco the way home, so Conor could buy a roll.

At home Conor sat in a play tent watching a film. Ms Morley also suffocated him. She wasn’t able to carry him up the stairs to his siblings’ body.

During the afternoon Ms Morley had dealings over the phone with her husband, but nothing was said to cause him any concern. She said she wanted to know what time he would be home at.

After she had suffocated Conor, Ms Morley left her home at 4.10 pm, intending to take her own life. She had taken a number of medicines and took a bottle of wine with her.

However she crashed her car at 5.30 pm, at a grassy area near a bridge over the N7 between Rathcoole and Newcastle.

A nurse, Deirdre Gorman, who came across Ms Morley, grew concerned about her and drove her back to her home.

Ms Morley later phoned a taxi and went back to the area near the N7 flyover. A taxi driver, Paul O’Callaghan, saw her and grew concerned. When he stopped she fell against the taxi. While he was bringing her home, she became unconscious. He rang for an ambulance and it arrived at 7.10 pm.

Two members of An Garda Siochana happened to be nearby on other business, and neighbours were assisting.

A neighbour recognised Ms Morley and called Mr McGinley who, by then, was just minutes from the family home.

When he went into the house he saw Conor in the downstairs room, and later his other two children in the master bedroom. He was accompanied by ambulance and fire brigade staff.

“The level of distress was extraordinarily high, for obvious reasons,” Ms Lawlor said. Dec Sgt Kenny agreed.

During interviews with the gardai on January 28th, 2020, Ms Morley told of how the boys protested as she put tape over their mouths and she started to suffocate them with plastic bags.

The court heard that in her interviews Ms Morley said that she had, over the previous weeks, been getting dark thoughts and wanted “to be gone”.

However she hadn’t wanted to leave her children behind.

“I was always worrying that I hadn’t love them enough,” she said.

She described how she had killed Darragh in the front room of the house by putting a plastic bag over his head. She had struggled with the boy.

She took Darragh’s body upstairs and put it on the side of the bed where her husband usually slept, then went downstairs again and killed Carla, again using a plastic bag.

She said that when she was killed Darragh she had wanted to stop, but couldn’t. She had started to do it, and felt she couldn’t stop. Asked if this was why she had then killed Carla, she said it was.

Likewise with Conor. She felt she couldn’t leave “any of them behind”.

Between killing Darragh and Carla and going to collect Conor early from school, she may have written a note warning people not to go upstairs, and saying “I’m sorry”.

She may also have smoked a number of cigarettes.

She told the gardaí she wanted to have killed her children, and herself, before her husband arrived home, which she had expected would happen at about 4pm.

After collecting Conor from school, he started to watch a film, Jurassic World. She suggested playing a game where they put tape over their mouths and tried to speak. She then suggested the same with a plastic bag.

When she put the bag on his head he said: “Stop Mammy. What are you doing?” She said: “I’m sorry Conor.”

During the interview she was asked if he had struggled. She said not really. “I got on top of him.” Asked by the gardaí if she wanted a drink, she responded: “I just want them back.”

She also told the gardaí that at one stage she was “thinking I can’t do this. This is awful. But also that I can’t not do this” because Conor’s two siblings were already dead.

When Michael Bowman SC, for Ms Morley, said it was clear that this was “a tragedy of unspeakable proportions,” Dec Sgt Kenny said: “Absolutely.”

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent