THE mother of three young boys killed in a tragic murder-suicide revealed she has moved from their old home following a number of requests by her for it to be demolished.
Helen O’Driscoll’s nine-year-old twin sons, Thomas and Paddy were stabbed to death by their older brother Jonathan who later took his own life in the neighbouring town of Buttevant four years ago. The 21-year-old Charleville man had been suffering from serious mental health issues in the time leading up to their deaths.
Helen and her family later moved into a mobile home on the site while waiting to be rehoused. However, being so near to the scene of the tragedy proved too traumatic for Helen. As a result, she has relocated the family to a rented property close to their old home. She continues to pray for the day she can see the house destroyed and transformed into a shrine for her sons.
“No family in their right mind would go into that house,” she said.
“It needs to be knocked so my boys can go to God. My kids died innocent but their souls are trapped in there. In my heart, I know that Jonathan’s soul is there too. He was found in Buttevant, but for me, Jonathan died the minute he hurt the boys. It wasn’t Jonathan who killed Paddy and Thomas, but mental illness.
“I wouldn’t like to see another family living in that house. I don’t think it would be very lucky for anyone. Seeing other children walk through that gate when ours are gone would break all our hearts. There is a piece of us still left in that house.”
Instead, Helen would like to see the site repurposed as a shrine to the boys and a showcase of local traveller culture. “People still leave flowers and holy pictures. They always lift my heart I’m so thankful for these kind gestures.” If the house could be demolished, she said, they would be able to get rid of the bad memories and hold on to the good ones. “I would do it all myself if I had to.”
Helen spoke of how the delay in getting it knocked has split their family.
“They don’t know how much strain this is putting on our shoulders.
“My husband Thomas is up and down to me but he is still living in the mobile to watch over the house. That’s where his heart is. I had to take the other children away from there for the sake of their mental health. They were there that day and it wasn’t fair to have them looking at the house every day.”
She spoke of her desperate need for closure. “It was a tradition in the travelling community that you burned the barrel-top wagon that the person died in. Thomas would never have done that with the house. He wanted to do things the right way, the legal way, but four years later it is still standing,” Helen said.
She described how preparations had been put in place for the demolition.
“My husband was told the day of the funeral that the house would be knocked.
“There was a man who came to check the asbestos on the roof to make sure it was safe. Another person came to check the electrics. After that, we heard nothing. If I got news that the house was going to be knocked, I’d be the happiest woman alive.”
Helen’s neighbours have also been deeply affected by the tragedy.
“This won’t just set my boys free, it will help the whole community as well. It’s not just us who are hurting. Our neighbours call it the ‘house from Hell.’ They have to pass the house every day. It is a constant reminder of what happened. We are so thankful for everything the council has done for us, but right now our family is in limbo. This is the only way we will be able to move forward. I hope to bring my children here to watch it being knocked after we’ve had a Mass said at the house.”
Helen said she will always be honest with her children. “When they ask me a question I tell them the truth.
The world is too cruel to whitewash the story of what happened that day. There is no point in telling them a lie when the person up the street is going to tell them otherwise. We still think about the boys always and the kids listen to all the music they loved like ‘Galway Girl’ and Nathan Carter’s ‘Wagon Wheel’.”
She appealed for change in the area of mental health.
“Jonathan tried to get help and all the doors were closed in his face.
“Young people need to be listened to.”
She expressed gratitude to her community.
“The local priest Fr Naughton was wonderful and called to check in on us almost every day,” Helen said.
“Neighbours of ours brought us sandwiches every evening. Our community has helped us fight for our lives.”