Domestic abuse must be ‘bravely’ confronted, say murderer’s sons

Luke and Ryan Hart, whose mother and sister were killed by their father, speak at summit

Kathleen Chada, whose sons Eoghan and Ruairí were murdered by their father, Sanjeev Chada, speaking at the Safe World Summit in the Mansion House, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Kathleen Chada, whose sons Eoghan and Ruairí were murdered by their father, Sanjeev Chada, speaking at the Safe World Summit in the Mansion House, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

People need to be braver about confronting domestic abuse when they see it, the two sons of a man who murdered his wife and daughter have said.

Luke and Ryan Hart described their lives in the build-up to the double homicide in July 2016 and the tight control their father had exercised throughout their childhoods.

“I never considered that to be controlled is to be abused,” Ryan Hart said.

The brothers were addressing the Safe World Summit organised by SafeIreland at Dublin’s Mansion House on Monday, an event that grapples with the realities of domestic and gender violence, its manifestations and society’s response.

Lance Hart shot and killed his wife Claire and 19-year-old daughter Charlotte. Not long beforehand, the sons had arranged alternative accommodation for them.

In the aftermath they have used their experience to raise awareness of coercive and controlling behaviour – one form of domestic abuse – and have been actively involved in training responders.

“Within three years of meeting our mother, our father had created dependency, isolation and reduced our mother to poverty, a perfect recipe for control,” Luke said.

The murders brought aspects of domestic violence into focus for them: a need for people to speak out when they see what is happening, and a need for a revision of media reporting.

Escape

Luke recalled how when they were looking for alternative accommodation they were surprised at how “trivial” the process appeared, how “expert the estate agents were at facilitating escape for women and children from abusers”. A locksmith they hired had “simply nodded”, knowing what was going on but not asking any questions.

Our tragedy was treated as an isolated and rare incident. Apparently nothing needed to change

“We believe that we all need to be braver in asking those difficult questions,” he said.

The brothers said the media had attempted and failed to explain “how a good man could kill his family” rather than acknowledging him as a “terrorist”.

“Our tragedy was treated [by the media] as an isolated and rare incident. Apparently nothing needed to change,” Luke said. “Yet for Ryan and I it was clear that much needed to change.”

The first day of the two-day summit heard from numerous speakers addressing the issue of domestic and gender-based violence. Personal stories were told by Irish broadcaster and businesswoman Norah Casey, author and columnist Helen Walmsley-Johnson and writer and activist Winnie M Li.

‘Choice’

Kathleen Chada, whose sons Eoghan (10) and Ruairí (5) were killed by their father, Sanjeev Chada, in Co Mayo in 2013, spoke about the idea of “choice” in how people respond to tragedy.

“I used to tell people that I had no choice, I have no choice but to keep going,” she told The Irish Times.

“But at some point, probably about a year and a half after losing Eoghan and Ruairí, I realised I did have a choice and that I chose to live. I chose to keep going.”

As with the Hart brothers, Ms Chada had suffered the most extreme domestic violence in the loss of her sons but said she believed society’s understanding of, and approach to the issue was slowly improving.

“I think we are learning to open the door,” she said. “We are learning to actually say this is not right.”

The renowned psychologist who survived Auschwitz, Dr Edith Eva Eger, was asked her thoughts on the idea of forgiveness. She said: “I am not God, I am just human, and so I am giving myself a gift that I don’t have to carry anything, anyone in me . . . and reclaim that freedom to choose how you are going to love thine enemies and pray for them . . . but there is no forgiveness without rage.”