Two young girls killed in Co Cork

 

Gardaí in Cork are investigating after a father-of-two died in car crash and the bodies of his two daughters were discovered in a house near Ballycotton outside Midleton this morning.

John Butler (43) was killed after dousing his car in petrol and driving it at high speed into a ditch.

Detectives believe the former steel worker and builder killed his daughters Zoe (7) and Ella (2) by strangulation in the living room of their home after wife Oonagh left for work in Cork city this morning.

Neighbours and teachers in the local school Scoil Realt na Mara raised concerns with local gardaí called to deal with the crash after Ella failed to turn up at school.

“It was a fireball,” a senior investigator said.

“The car went on fire immediately on impact, in a ditch.”

Within about 10 minutes of gardaí arriving on the scene of the burning car officers discovered the little girls dead in the family home.

The crash happened shortly after 9.30am about 3km from the house on a straight stretch of a road known locally as the bog road between Ballycotton and Shanagarry.

Principal Derry Keogh issued a statement on behalf of the board of management, staff and pupils expressing their deep shock and sadness.

“We learned this morning of the death of one of our pupils and other family members,” Mr Keogh said.

“This is a terrible tragedy for the family, the school and our community. We are deeply saddened by these events. Our sympathy and thoughts are with the family and friends at this terrible time.”

Mr Keogh said the school’s six teachers were focused on the 98 pupils at the school and helping them cope with the loss of a young friend and a younger sibling.

“We will help the children to the best of our ability,” the principal said.

“To allow the staff to focus on the children we appeal for privacy and will make no further comment at this time.” The school remained open during the day and will continue to stay open over the coming days to support parents and offer them advice and guidance.

The school requested the support of the National Education Psychological Service and has also put in place a critical incident management plan.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Cloyne, called for prayers following tragic deaths.

"I am deeply shocked to learn of the tragic deaths of two children and their father in Ballycotton today."

"My heart goes out to all concerned; the children’s mother, to the extended family, relatives and friends and to the community of Ballycotton and to the people of the whole parish of Cloyne," he said.

"On behalf of the people and priests of the diocese, I offer my sincere and heartfelt condolences and I ask for prayers for the deceased and for those who are grieving."

Additional reporting PA