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Thursday 8 December 2016

Youth who stabbed his little brother had been in psychiatric hospital

late Brandon Skeffington from Sligo
late Brandon Skeffington from Sligo

A 20-year-old who fatally stabbed his nine-year-old brother before taking his own life had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital two months earlier.

A jury at Sligo Coroner's Court returned a unanimous verdict of unlawful killing in the case of nine-year-old Brandon Skeffington from Banada, Tourlestrane, Co Sligo.

They found by a majority verdict that his 20-year-old brother, Shane Michael, had died as a result of suicide.

Knife

They had heard he had been allowed home from St Columba's Hospital six days after being admitted in May last year.

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said Brandon died as a result of three stab wounds to his left lung. His older brother died as a result of hanging.

The inquest heard Brandon's blood was found on a knife discovered beside his older brother's body in a shed.

The brothers were found by their parents after they returned from shopping with their two-year-old son on July 20 last year.

Shane and Carmel Skeffington gave evidence of finding Brandon on an upstairs landing with his T-shirt soaked in blood.

His lips were blue and he was pale. After the paramedics arrived, Mr Skeffington found Shane Michael in a shed .

The boys' sister, Sharon, who was 15 at the time, recalled in a statement that while her parents were away she was in her bedroom listening to music and texting friends.

At one stage she heard her brothers talking and playing ball together in the utility room beside her room.

Then they went quiet and she assumed they had gone upstairs. At one stage Shane Michael had knocked on her door and called her name but the door was locked and when she asked what he wanted, he said: "Ah, nothing, just checking."

Carmel Skeffington recalled that initially she thought Brandon was "messing".

Her husband remembered that "it seemed like forever" before the paramedics arrived. When they did, he went looking for Shane Michael "because I had a feeling he had done this" to Brandon.

Mrs Skeffington told coroner Eamon MacGowan that Shane Michael had been admitted to St Columba's on May 14 follow- ing a psychotic episode.

She told the inquest he had been smoking cannabis for about six or eight weeks before this. He would not eat in the hospital and would not take medication so he received injections. After a week they got a call saying they could visit.

Psychiatrist Dr Donagh O'Neill asked them if they wanted to take Shane Michael home.

"We were shocked but happy he was coming home," said Mrs Skeffington

Dr O'Neill told Ciaran Tansey, solicitor for the Skeffington family, that Shane Michael had suffered cannabis induced psychotic symptoms and he would expect these to resolve as long as he stopped using cannabis.

He told Mr MacGowan he had been "surprised and shocked and also very saddened" by what had happened.

Mr Tansey suggested that the family felt that "something fell between the cracks here" .

Mrs Skeffington told the jury that her oldest son failed to keep any of his out-patient appointments after being released "on leave".

He was quiet after he came out of hospital but tried to keep himself busy, saving turf and helping her with the shopping.

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