Jamie Campbell was just three weeks away from his fifth birthday when he saw his mother Ciara stabbed to death. The last thing she told him to do while the little boy watched in horror as Gordie Molloy viciously attacked her was run away.
He did as she said and ran upstairs to his bedroom, where he hid under a blanket for five hours until Gardaí arrived.
Later, in the hospital, his grandmother Paidí, Ciara’s mother, took him in her arms and brought him home.
That night he slept with her and her husband Micheál in the house that has been his safe haven ever since.
“There was no question of where Jamie would go after Ciara was murdered,” Micheál said Irish Independent in this week.
“This was his home, he had his own room here, his own toys. I suppose we were just incredibly lucky to be so close as a family. That night we became his parents.”
Jamie, now 19, is one of many children who are hidden behind headlines every year about murders left motherless by femicide.
Many may have witnessed or been aware of domestic violence against their mother prior to the murder.
Others, like Jamie, may have been present when their mother was killed and witnessed the murder.
“Jamie still has nightmares about it,” Micheál said.
“It’s something that will never leave him and he’s had to deal with it every day since.
“Jamie remembers that day as clearly as ever. It’s a terrible thing to live with, but he lives with it all the time and it gets harder and harder as he gets older.”
In addition to the motherless children, family members also experience great trauma, often compounded by a sense of guilt at not being able to protect their loved one.
Struck by a sudden loss, they may also suddenly find themselves as the parents of the surviving and traumatized children.
“I identified my daughter at the morgue, took care of Jamie and made sure he was okay,” Micheál said.
“There is a blur between your own grief and the responsibility to make sure he is cared for and cared for. It was awful.
“There was no official support, nobody came to help us. It’s up to the families. Even now, at 19, Jamie still attends a privately funded counseling center.
“It’s an ongoing process for him to deal with what happened. No one knocked on our door and said “Jamie will need advice, here’s the build”.
“Paidí organized everything. Since then, no one has knocked on the door and said, How’s Jamie doing?
According to Women’s Aid, from 1996 to 2018, 125 children were left without their mothers in couple relationships as a result of femicide. The charity emphasizes that this figure is not current.
“Data and research in this area is lacking,” said Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid.
“As a society, however, to support the best possible outcomes for someone dealing with this level of adversity, it is a compassionate response to identify and make available specific therapeutic support of their choosing at key points throughout their life and into adulthood.” “
According to Women’s Aid’s Femicide database, 249 women died violent deaths in Ireland between 1996 and 2022; 158 women were killed in their own homes (63 percent) and 87 percent of the women (where the case was solved) were killed by a man they knew.
In April last year, mother of two Jennifer Poole, 24, was stabbed to death at her home in Finglas, north Dublin. Her ex-boyfriend Gavin Murphy, 21, was sentenced to life in prison for her killing last month.
Her two children, Nevaeh (8) and five-year-old Zack, have been living with their grandmother ever since.
Jennifer’s brother Jason plays a big role in her life.
“It’s very hard for them,” he said. “They literally saw their mummy 15 minutes before she died. Zack was outside in the car and Jennifer went into the house and she didn’t come out.
“The next time he saw her, she was in a coffin. It’s very difficult to help a four-year-old understand that.”
Since their mother’s death, both children have undergone grief counseling as well as expert Garda interviews about their mother’s relationship with Murphy.
“They had a lot to deal with,” Jason said. “They go to Barnardos for grief counseling and we have organized a separate private counseling session. They would have nightmares and fear.
“It’s natural that they have good days and bad days. You can see it in them, it kind of builds up in them.
“In some cases they might just cry for their mother, but we have them in a very settled routine. They box, they go swimming, they’re at the GAA club that Jennifer was at.
“The more time they have to think, the more questions they have, and the number is growing
telling them “This is your future life”, involving them in things like sports and keeping them busy.
“But it’s hard, and I would say that as a family we’ve been very active in seeking out the help they need.”
In its submission to the government’s domestic homicide investigation, Women’s Aid called for financial support for specialized support for families, including support for surviving children.
The charity argues that this should be provided free of charge and for as long as necessary by specially trained advisers.
Highlighting the lack of official support for traumatized youth and those left to pick up the pieces, Ms Benson said: “Children and other family members often need specialized psychological support.
“Yet there seems to be nothing committed, recognized and earmarked to provide psychological and therapeutic support in particular, not just in the short term, but in the medium and long term in relation to the consequences and trauma of losing a parent to homicide. “
Ms Benson said it was important that support be provided during times such as appeals and parole, which are again traumatizing for the family.
“There will be times in the young person’s life when support is needed,” she said.
“There may be times when the feeling of missing the parent is particularly acute, or in special circumstances where there may be a trial or parole hearing, or in some cases the release of the killer.”
In the case of Ciara Campbell, where her killer has twice been eligible for parole since his incarceration for her murder, her family has made sure her son’s views on the issue were heard.
“Jamie always had a say,” Micheál said. “Even when he was a minor, every time we had to email the Parole Board we would ask Jamie for his input and we included him. We sent it as a separate email. We have always done this, and unfortunately we still have to do this to try to keep a murderer in prison.
“Jamie missed his whole life with his mother. He didn’t lose his mother, she was taken from him.”
For the Poole family, the issue of parole eligibility is something they have already considered.
“The kids are so young,” Jason said. “Nevaeh would have googled her mother’s name and seen things, so we made sure that stopped.
“We don’t really tell Zack much, and with Nevaeh we tell her the basics. Sometime when she’s 16 or 17, she has the right to speak to a parole board and tell them why her mother’s killer shouldn’t come out. She’s eight right now and we need her to be eight and enjoy life and enjoy her friends.”
Almost 15 years after the murder of his mother, Jamie Campbell is about to receive his Leaving Cert.
“He’s a credit to Ciara,” Micheál said. “We loved her and we love him just as much. I firmly believe that Ciara saved his life that day by telling him to run away. We are so thankful to have him and we will always protect him.”
A little over a year since the loss of their mother, Nevaeh and Zack are getting along fine.
“They are doing well in school,” said her uncle. The support for them has been “phenomenal” and they are looking forward to a busy summer. Of course they miss their mother.
“They made teddy bears out of their clothes and they sleep with them,” Jason said.
“They write her cards all the time, and when they go to the grave they ask a question. When will you see your mom again?
“We have to be honest and say you won’t see your mommy again. This is the cruel reality.
“They lost more than anyone else because of it.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/crime/they-go-up-to-their-mams-grave-and-ask-us-when-shes-coming-back-we-have-to-tell-them-they-wont-see-her-again-41648551.html “They go to their mother’s grave and ask us when she’s coming back – we have to tell them they won’t see her again.”