|THE finding of the bodies on January 12th of a widow and her
daughter in the gas-filled kitchen of their home, 10 Oaklands drive, Rathgar, and that of another daughter
in a bedroom hanging by the neck from a cot, was described at an inquest held by the City Coroner, Dr.
D. A. MacErlean, at the City Morgue, yesterday. The inquest was on Mrs. Deborah Ahern (35), Aileen (9),
and Dierdre (5). The jury returned a verdict that Mrs. died from asphyxia due to the inhalation of carbon
monoxide gas self administered; that Aileen died from a similar cause, the gas being administered by her
mother, and that Dierdre died from asphyxia due to hanging, enacted by her mother. In each verdict, the
jury found that the occurrences took place while the mother was of unsound mind.
Cornelius Buckley, a brother of Mrs. Ahern, gave evidence of identification, and said that he last saw her
alive on January 9th, when she visited his home. She was in good health, made no complaint and said
she would come to dinner on the following Sunday. She did not do so. Her husband, who had been an
architect, died in September, 1952. As far as he knew she was in a comfortable financial position. On
January 10th his maid phoned his sister and asked her was she coming for luncheon, and she said
that she might call. They phone[d] again on January 11th but received no reply.
Dr. George Donnald, who had attended Mrs. Ahern, described how she had called to him in December
and told him that she was feeling very much better. He advised her to cut down gradually a nerve tonic
which she had been taking. In January, when she visited him she said that she had no worries. She also
said that she was going to take up a small business. Generally her conversation gave him the impression
of a mother who wished to do everything for her children.
Mrs. N. Bruton, 12 Oaklands Drive, Rathgar, said that the two Ahern children attended a party at her house
on January 10th and later Mrs. Ahern called for them. She noticed nothing unusual about her. Mrs. Noreen
O'Neill, 19 Oaklands Drive, said that on the occasion Mrs. Ahern's conversation was normal. Eric Meirs, who
lived next door to the dead woman, said that on January 12th his maid got the smell of gas and he came
from next door. His wife got no answer from the Ahern home and neither did he when he phoned.
Guard Edmund Flaherty, Rathmines, who was visiting in the locality and who went to the house said that
he noticed that one of the jets on the cooker was lighted and he saw bodies in front of the cooker. Upstairs
they found the body of Deirdre hanging from the cot. Guard J. Lane, Rathmines, gave evidence of finding
Deirdre hanging from the cot. John Tallon, Gas Company employee, gave evidence of testing the fittings
in the house for an escape of gas but found everything perfect.
Patricia Riordan, an employee of an auctioneering firm, said that about 10.30 a.m. on January 12th she
phoned Mrs. Ahern in connection with the sale of her house. The voice which answered the phone
seemed to be that of a young person, which she could not understand. The receiver was left down
for a while and then was taken up again. A young female voice answered her and told her that her
mammie was sick, and further added that everyone in the house was sick, and that her mammie
could not speak to Miss Riordan's employer. Gerard Kelly, a milk-roundsman, described how he had left two
milk bottles outside the door on the 12th, and that he when he called later to collect his account he got no
answer. One of the bottles had been taken at that time. Two Dublin Fire Brigade men, Mr. R. Gibson and
Mr. G. Lee, gave evidence of entering the house and finding the bodies. The latter said that all the gas-jets
on the cooker were turned on, and one of them was lighted. An electric fire in the kitchen was also lighted.
The Coroner, addressing the jury, said Mrs. Ahern might have had some private worried which she
had not disclosed to her friends, and which might have revived the distress which she suffered after her
husband's death. It would be a fair assumption that she was suffering from some severe emotional
strain which she was not able to stand up to, and, as a result of that, she decided upon this course of action.
They were entitled to assume that her action was not that of a normal person, that her mind was completely
unbalanced at the time, and completely irresponsible.