Irish in shock after 'black day' of family murders

image captionGardai Technical Bureau investigators examined the Limerick crime scene

Harrowing details have emerged in the Irish Republic about two unrelated multiple murders, described as a "black day of attacks" by the Irish Times.

A mother, her son of three, daughter of five months and an adult female friend were found stabbed in Co Limerick. The mother's former partner was arrested.

In Co Cork, a man killed himself after strangling his daughters, six and two, while their mother was at work.

Both he and the Limerick suspect are said to have been unemployed.

They are both believed to have worked in the building trade among other occupations.

Police have sealed off the houses in Newcastle West, Limerick, and the village of Ballybraher near Ballycotton, Cork, as detectives collect forensic evidence.

Arrested in pub

Police arrested the suspect in the Limerick killings on Tuesday afternoon, hours after the four bodies were found in Newcastle West.

He was found in a pub in Kilkee, Co Clare.

Apparently, the suspect had phoned a friend to tell him about the murders, and the friend had immediately alerted police.

Sarah Hines, 25, her son Reece and daughter Amy, and family friend Alicia Brough, 20, had been dead for a number of hours when they were found in the family's rented house on the Hazelgrove estate in Gortboy, Newcastle West.

The unnamed suspect, 31, previously worked in the construction and manufacturing trade, the Irish Independent reports.

It adds that he was "briefly treated in the past as an outpatient for psychiatric care".

'Beautiful children'

In the Cork case, father-of-two John Butler, 43, strangled his little girls Zoe and Ella at the family bungalow on Tuesday morning before dousing his car in petrol and crashing it into a tree at high speed.

Butler, a former steel worker and builder who had not worked for several months, acted while the girls' mother Una was at her job in a tax office in Cork city.

He died in the blazing wreck of his car.

Hearing a man had been killed in a car crash in Ballycotton, Una tried ringing his mobile and, getting no answer, called a relative.

The relative and another family member went to the Butlers' home where they found the dead bodies of the sisters, in their pyjamas.

Butler, a former Gaelic footballer, had previously worked in Irish Steel before moving to construction in recent years, finding only occasional work of late due to the recession, the Irish Times reports.

Ann McNamara, a friend of the family, told the Irish Independent no one could believe the news about the three deaths.

"We all met up at a birthday party only the other week," she said.

"It is terrible, so terribly sad. They're such a lovely family - such beautiful children."

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