#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: 15°C Wednesday 18 May 2022

Bernadette Scully: 'I had lost my reason for living. I had lost my Emily.'

The Offaly GP denies the manslaughter of her daughter.

Bernadette Scully (R) gave evidence in the Central Criminal Court today.
Bernadette Scully (R) gave evidence in the Central Criminal Court today.
Image: Leah Farrell

A DOCTOR ON trial, charged with the manslaughter of her profoundly disabled daughter by giving her too much sedative, has denied that a suicide note she wrote afterwards was acknowledgment that she caused the girl’s death, saying: ‘I had lost my reason for living’.

Bernadette Scully (58) was being cross-examined by the State on the eighth day of her trial today.

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 15 September, 2012.

She has pleaded not guilty and is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

She said she had administered chloral hydrate when her daughter became upset at 2am and 6am. She said her daughter then had a massive fit after 11am.

“So, you decide you need to do something to stop this fit?” asked Tara Burns SC, prosecuting.

I was standing there with her, not there with my logical medical head on me,” she replied.

I was working with my emotional mind, as a mother, looking at my baby, thinking I am going to have to stop this fit.

She said that chloral hydrate was the only anticonvulsant she had.

Burns said that the drug’s use as an anticonvulsant might be at issue.

Scully said she had looked up the medical literature and found a residential centre in the UK, where chloral hydrate was used for children with epilepsy.

“They’re giving it, a 10 ml dosage to children Emily’s age every four to six hours, so it is documented,” she added.

“I think, faced with that horrendous fit she was in, i was thinking: ‘What can I give her?” she explained.

‘Middle of a fit’

Scully was asked why she had brought the bottle of chloral hydrate to the bedroom, rather than filling the syringe at the kitchen sink.

“My child is in the room in the middle of this fit,” she replied.

I’m not going to stand in the kitchen and fill a syringe. I’m running to try to get back to her.

She said it was really quite a stressful situation, describing, it as pandemonium.

“If you’re in a hospital, you don’t have that emotional contact that I have with my Emily so you’re not standing back and thinking,” she said.

Burns questioned her about the aftermath of Emily’s passing, when she wrote a suicide note and made two attempts to take her own life.

“Can I suggest to you that the reason for that action was an acknowledgement by you after Emily’s death that you had been a cause of her passing?” she asked.

“I wasn’t the cause,” she replied. “I did not cause emily’s death. It’s so hurtful to hear that.”

She said that she and her daughter were ‘just tied together’, that she had slept beside her all her life.

It was put to her that she had accepted that she had given her too much in her voluntary statement to gardai.

“I gave Emily too much in relation to what I normally gave her,” she replied.

I would not normally give two doses in one sitting. That’s what I meant by that.

Burns suggested that her actions afterwards supported a proposition that she had felt responsible for Emily’s death.

“No I didn’t. I wanted to go with Emily,” she said. “Emily came before anything in my life.”


The barrister then asked her to explain two portions of the note:

“If anyone thinks I’m awful for doing this, you should have listened to poor little Emily crying the last eight days. I love her dearly, Bernie,” she read from the envelope in which the note was found.

“I meant, if anyone thinks I’m awful for killing myself,” replied Ms Scully.

I’m talking about as the doctor, who was working with people who had committed suicide and I was letting them down.

“I was very distressed after seeing her suffer so much and I couldn’t save her. I wanted to save her.”

Burns then read from the letter:

I do not want to die. I can not let Emily’s suffering continue. I can’t watch it any longer. The pain is too big, the struggle each day is too hard, the loneliness and isolation too much.

Scully said she meant that she couldn’t let Emily’s suffering continue elsewhere.

“I can not watch this world without her. The loneliness and isolation would be too much without her,” she added. “I did not have my thoughts clearly organised on paper.”

#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


Graham Dwyer case Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Burns noted that she had an absolute love for Emily and had attempted to have her treated with dignity during her life.

“Your conduct after the event doesn’t seem to equate with a respect for Emily in terms of letting her peacefully pass,” she suggested, however.

“There instead seems to be, by your actions, an acknowledgement that this is laid at your door.”

Bernadette Scully didn’t agree:

I had lost my reason for living. I had lost my Emily. I left Emily in my bed where she wanted always to be.

She said Emily was always happiest in that bed, on her chest.

“I laid her peacefully on my bed,” she continued. “I did not want to go on. I did not want to live after Emily was gone.”

She said she’d had a life of sleep deprivation, of pain, of watching her suffer.

“I had this beautiful little baby. She was like my little bird with a broken wing. My job was to protect her, and not just medically, as her mother,” she said.

She said they had suffered so much at the hands of services that were not there.

“We were forced back into our little shell,” she said. “I created a little world at home for her. It was her beautiful little world.”

Tara Burns SC said that evidence of a nice conversation she’d had with her partner’s daughter, her tone of voice in a recorded call to the poisons centre, and her bringing the bottle and syringes back to the kitchen afterwards suggested someone who was together.

“I wasn’t ok after Emily died,” she said.

The trial continues before Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven women and five men.

Read: ‘I just took her up in my arms and held her’: Mother gives evidence about the night her daughter died >

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

About the author:

Natasha Reid

Read next: