The mother of two small girls killed by their father in east Co Cork last year has said the spouses and partners of those suffering from mental illness should be involved in their treatment and the first concern should be the welfare of children.

Una Butler, of Ballycotton, Co Cork, told the inquest into the deaths of her husband, John, and their children, Zoe and Ella, that it had never occurred to her that her husband, who was being treated for depression, would act in the way he had.

Ms Butler said she could never have imagined, nor was she ever alerted to the possibility, that such a horrendous event could have happened.

The inquest in Cork this afternoon heard that both children had been killed at their home before John Butler drove his car into a wall and killed himself.

Mrs Butler said she had left for work that day, as normal, leaving the children in their father's care.

She said for reasons that she would never understand, John had taken the lives of their precious daughters.

Full Statement of Una Butler

'My girls Zoe and Ella meant the world to me. They were my life and I am very proud of them. They brought so much joy to our family.

'Zoe was 6. She loved school, baking brown bread and eating it raw. She was very sporty, loved doing cartwheels and judo, music, dancing and loved reading books. She loved Ella and was never jealous of her, even from the start.

'Ella was 2. She was very mischievous, loved dancing, jewellery, pulling Zoe's hair, Peppa Pig and having books read to her. She looked up to Zoe so much and was always trying to copy her.

'My life is changed forever. I miss them so much. I hope that nobody will ever have to go through what I am now going through.

'On 16 November last, I left my home for work as I normally did. I left Zoe and Ella in the care of their father John. For reasons that I will never understand John took the lives of our precious daughters Zoe and Ella. At this time of unspeakable anguish in my life, it is very difficult for me to make sense of the events that occurred. There will always be pieces of the jigsaw missing.

'John, who suffered from depression on and off over a number of years, was under the care of Mental Health Services from November 2009 until he was discharged from their care in August 2010, some three months before this tragedy happened.

'It never would have occurred to me that John was capable of acting out in the manner in which he did. Living with someone with mental illness is extremely difficult. Whereas issues such as patient confidentiality are important, I feel spouses/partners should be involved with their treatment and that the first concern should be the welfare of children.

'I never imagined, nor was I ever alerted, that such a horrendous event could have happened. My two beautiful daughters have had their lives cut short as a direct result of John's mental illness.

'I have been supported and helped greatly by my family, friends, work colleagues and the gardaí. It was a shocking event for everyone and I thank them for their support which has enabled me to continue.

'It is so sad that my beautiful girls have been taken from me. John was a good person and he loved Zoe and Ella, but I am now only left with the memories of our beautiful daughters Zoe and Ella who loved life and brought so much joy. They are with me forever and are keeping me strong.'