Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Inquest into double death tragedy faces delay

A second inquest into the double tragedy in which a mother killed herself and her young daughter may face further delay, a court has heard.

While Coroner John Leckey said he was still working towards starting an inquest into the deaths of Madeleine and Lauren O’Neill on April 19, legal representatives of Mrs O’Neill’s estranged husband said “suspicions” were felt that some parties were not committed to working towards that date.

Mrs O'Neill (41), originally from Co Londonderry, was found dead with her nine-year-old daughter Lauren in their home at Manse Road in Carryduff on July 12, 2005.

The case sparked controversy after it was alleged there had been an apparent failure to transfer notes between the doctors who treated Mrs O'Neill.

Mrs O'Neill had been treated for psychiatric problems in the weeks leading up to her death.

A damning report on the case published in 2008 found that the deaths could have been prevented if health professionals had “communicated better”.

The first inquest ended when the jury was discharged less than two weeks after it began.

During a lengthy preliminary hearing in Belfast yesterday Mr Leckey said a decision on whether a jury will sit on the second inquest will not be made until all submissions and documentation of possible evidence are read.

This led to Mary O'Rourke QC — who represents three doctors who treated Mrs O'Neill — voicing concerns over the possible “wealth” of documents to read through in the timeframe leading up to the inquest.

John O’Neill’s legal representative, however, said he was concerned that not every party was committed to starting the inquest on April 19.

Mr Leckey said that he will make further decisions regarding timetables early next week once the Health Trusts involved indicate when requested documents are available.

It also emerged in court yesterday that a medical file of another patient, could be forensically examined following fears that Mrs O’Neill notes were mixed up.

Mr Leckey, however, told the court he was “committed” to begin on April 19.