The town of Kildysart has been left numbed by Wednesday nights double violent death of a South African couple.
The domestic incident that went tragically wrong means that two young girls will grow up without their parents and thousands of miles from their home.
44-year-old Cornelius Billing and his wife Angelique Booysen-Billing (27) known locally as Angie, died in violent circumstances at their rented flat on Main Street in Kildysart.
The pair sustained traumatic injuries following an apparent domestic incident in their upstairs home. It’s also understood that there had been rows previously at the same property.
Gardaí have described the incident as a “tragic domestic incident that went horribly and tragically wrong’ and have confirmed they are not looking for a third party.
According to one local, the couple were due to attend a court hearing today (Friday) in relation to custody of the children who Mrs Billing wanted to take home to South Africa.
The drama inside the flat unfolded while emergency services were dealing with an unrelated incident across the street.
Fire crews and gardaí had been called to a fire in a local shop and were dealing with the blaze at around 7.40pm when the young mother stumbled out of her nearby home onto the footpath. It’s understood she had one of her children with her at the time.
One firefighter, who had been gathering additional equipment to fight the fire, was first to see the gravely injured woman. He dropped what he was doing and ran to her assistance thinking she had suffered a heart attack or other episode.
He quickly identified that the woman had a deep gash to her chest and called on a colleague to alert the ambulance service.
Other fire personnel grabbed oxygen tanks, medical bags and an AED (automated external defibrillator) from their fire truck and ran to his assistance.
While fire fighters continued to fight the shop blaze, others commenced efforts to resuscitate the gravely ill victim. Additional units of the fire brigade from Kilrush were then called into to assist with the fire while crews from Ennis gave their time to the casualties.
The young child is believed to have run back into the flat screaming and was followed by a garda who discovered the fatally wounded man upstairs. Efforts to resuscitate him were also carried out.
It’s believed the dead woman was from Rietkol in the municipality of Mpumalanga in South Africa. The family is understood to have moved to the area last March and had been struggling financially.
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis carried out a preliminary examination of the bodies at the scene before they were removed by separate hearses, under garda escort, to the mortuary at University Hospital Limerick where postmortem examinations were due to be carried out.
A representative of the South African consulate in Dublin also visited the scene. It’s understood that she collected the victim’s passport and fingerprints to assist efforts in locating the victim’s families in South Africa.
It’s also understood that the representative travelled to visit Mr Billing’s sister who lives near the village of Labasheeda about 12 kilometres from Kildysart.
Garda crime scene investigators examined two scenes, one outside where Mrs Billing collapsed and died and inside the flat where her husband was found.
The couple’s children, 4-year-old Pamela and Cornie (2) are being cared for by the HSE.
An incident room has been set up at Kilrush garda station and while gardaí have carried out door-to-door inquiries locally, they say they will wish to speak to anyone who was in the area of Main Street in Kildysart between 6pm and 7.30pm on Wednesday night to contact them in Kildysart on 065 6832102 the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.
Gardaí are investigating all the circumstances of the tragedy and are looking at whether the couple had injured each other or if Mr Billing stabbed his wife before taking is own life.
Chief fire officer for Co Clare, Mr Adrian Kelly, praised the emergency services for their efforts on the night.
“Our members performed in a very professional manner and dealt with a very difficult incident as per their training but all the emergency services. the fire service, ambulance service and gardaí worked very well together.”
Mr Kelly confirmed that support is available for fire service personnel, both within Clare County Council and from an outside agency, if any member requires following any incident.
Local reaction to the tragedy
One local who arrived at the scene said: “I know that everything that could have been done for them was done. The fire brigade lads were brilliant and the guards too. There was a lot of confusion but you’d expect that. I was standing up the street with many others but at the time we didn’t know it was this bad.”
“It’s very hard to believe to something like this can happen. We have had tragedies here before, a few actually, but two people dying like this is awful. It’s very upsetting to see the town practically closed down like this. It’s a bit frightening,” an upset local woman said.
It’s understood the family lived with Mr Billing’s sister for a short time.
Local woman Teresa Cavanagh became friends with Angie after meeting her in a local hair salon and often brought shopping to her and toys for the children.
“She was devoted to her children. I only saw her on Tuesday night. She waved to me and her little girls did too. When I met her first she asked me if I would visit her in her flat, which I did. I brought her shopping and toys for the two little girls.”
“She also said she had no family in South Africa except her mother. She had no brothers and no sisters. She said she loved Kildysart and that people were so kind and nice to her. She told me her husband had gone back to South Africa to get work but had come back again,” Ms Kavanagh added.
A woman who claims to have known Mrs Billing said however: “She absolutely loved her girls and all she wanted to fo was get back home to South Africa. That’s where she wanted to be and where she wanted to raise her children. She wasn’t happy here and had been talking about going home.”