#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 17 May 2022

'I just took her up in my arms and held her': Mother gives evidence about the night her daughter died

Bernadette Scully administered multiple doses of chloral hydrate to her 11-year-old daughter Emily.

Bernadette Scully, right, outside court last week
Bernadette Scully, right, outside court last week
Image: Leah Farrell

A MOTHER ON trial, charged with the manslaughter of her profoundly disabled daughter by giving her too much sedative, has said she loved the child ‘more than life itself’ and denied writing a suicide note before her death.

Bernadette Scully said she wrote the note after the child had passed away. She was giving evidence in her defence today on the seventh day of her trial.

The Offaly GP is charged with unlawfully killing 11-year-old Emily Barut, who was profoundly disabled, at their home at Emvale, Bachelor’s Walk, Tullamore.

It’s alleged that she killed her by an act of gross negligence involving the administration of an excessive quantity of chloral hydrate on Saturday, 15 September 2012.

The 58-year-old has pleaded not guilty and is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

Ms Scully testified that she had IVF treatment and suffered two miscarriages before becoming pregnant with Emily.

Emily’s birth and diagnosis

Emily didn’t cry when she was born but the doctor told her she had a lovely, quiet, baby girl. Emily had difficulty feeding and when she was two weeks old, she fell asleep and wouldn’t wake up. Ms Scully drove her to hospital in Dublin; her husband didn’t drive.

She said she fell into the arms of the doctor she met in Crumlin and began crying.

Measurements were taken and tests carried out.

“It was awful to watch her going through that,” she said.

A doctor then showed her a centile graph for measurements.

“Emily was about this much below the graph,” she said, indicating with her figures.

“I fell back into the seat and I just said: ‘Oh, my God’,” she recalled.

When I saw it, I could understand.

Another doctor told her that Emily’s head was significantly small.

He said: ‘She’ll have severe mental retardation. She’ll probably develop epilepsy. She may not walk. She may not talk. She may have difficulty hearing’. This all just came out just like this. He said a few more words and he just left.

“He came back into the cubicle and he said: ‘I mean severe retardation, not mild,” she continued.

My world just fell apart… I just said: ‘You don’t know. She’s too small. You can’t know all that’.

The night of her death

She described the following years with Emily, including her development of epilepsy and having 30 to 50 small fits a day at one stage.

She was asked about the hours leading up to her death on that Saturday.

She said she had been off work for six months, but had returned to work shortly before Emily died. The Friday was her second day back.

She said that Emily went to sleep around 9 that night and Ms Scully went to sleep in the bed beside her around 11 or 12.

“She woke at 2, upset, crying. It was building up to a crescendo,” she recalled.

I got her in beside me, massaged her, walked around a bit with her… She liked to have her head in my chest.

She said she couldn’t settle her, and she was beginning to cry louder and louder.

“I said I’d have to help her rest,” she said.

She said she didn’t want to give chloral hydrate, which she kept for emergencies, without having tried other things. She said she gave it to her at that stage and Emily fell asleep.

She explained that she had given her a 10ml syringeful, holding one up in the witness box.

“I didn’t sleep after that. I cried. I just felt so sorry for the poor little thing,” she said.

It was hard to sleep when she’d be in beside you but she just needed warmth.

She said that Emily was whimpering in her sleep and woke and again around 6, and was really upset.

“She was sort of stiffening a little as well. You might have said she was fitting at the same time,” she said. “She was crying and distressed.”

She said that on that night the cry was like that of a baby with colic, who couldn’t be consoled.

She said she did all the ordinary things again to try to comfort her.

“Ordinary things didn’t do anything for Emily. They wouldn’t stop it. The consultants couldn’t stop it,” she said.

I gave her some more chloral hydrate. I think it was about 7 mls.

Ms Scully said that she herself had been crying.

“I wasn’t able to help her,” she said. “I could cure everybody else and I couldn’t help Emily.”

She said that some time after 11am, Emily started to cry loudly again and she had again tried to comfort her.

“It was just relentless,” she said. “You’d have a pain in your brain. I was so tired, I thought, what else can I do?

“She let out a really odd shout out of her. Her little body arched back,” she said.

She really started to stiffen and jerk. The bed was shaking. That wasn’t normal for Emily.

Third dose

She said she was subconsciously ticking off all the medicines she couldn’t give her because she couldn’t tolerate them. She said she remembered what a consultant had said said about chloral hydrate being an anticonvulsive, as well as a sedative.

“It wasn’t a normal fit. It just wasn’t and it wasn’t stopping,” she continued. “Her little face was contorted. I didn’t know what was going on.”

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

She said she would usually have someone with her when giving chloral hydrate but her partner had gone to her nephew’s memorial service.

“I took the bottle with me and I gave her 10 mls and waited a few minutes,” she said. “The seizure continued all the time. You’d think it’s an eternity.”

She said the medicine didn’t change it.

“That’s what really panicked me,” she said. “After a few minutes, when it was still going, I gave her some more.”

She said she thought she gave 5 mls at that stage.

“Everything went quiet and her little lips went blue on her little face,” she said.

I just took her up in my arms and I just held her and it was just so quiet. I knew she wasn’t breathing. I said: ‘Em, please don’t go’.

She said they had always been together.

“She was part of me. We went everywhere together. She was the little baby I always wanted,” she said.

“I knew what resuscitation was about and Dr Sheridan had said to me years ago about Emily not being for resuscitation,” she said.

Her life was miserable at times but we did have some lovely times.

She said that when her daughter was gone, she told her she was coming with her.

“I fixed her hair and I put her Padre Pio medals beside her,” she said.

“Something just happened in my head. I could not let Emily go somewhere else and suffer somewhere else without me being with her to help her,” she said, describing two failed suicide attempts after Emily had passed.

Suicide note

Her barrister, Kenneth Fogarty, SC asked about a suicide note she had written that day.

He said that, on one reading of it, it might appear that it had come into existence before Emily’s death. She said it had not.

“I loved that child more than life itself,” she said. “That letter did not come into existence until afterwards.”

She said she was single-minded after Emily had passed.

“I needed to get to wherever Emily had gone,” she explained.

Tara Burns SC has now begun cross examining Ms Scully will continue that cross examination tomorrow morning before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven women and five men.

More: Gardaí considered other possible causes of death in case of GP accused of killing daughter

Read: Bernadette Scully manslaughter trial hears her care of disabled child was “nothing short of superb”

About the author:

Natasha Reid

Read next: