Gardaí probing if schoolboy died by suffocation as preliminary findings rule out drowning
Sources have revealed how gardaí engaged in a desperate hunt to locate the woman’s car – after she raised the alarm with a resident near the Carbally Community Centre shortly after midnight Thursday, but subsequently disappeared before help arrived.
Gardaí investigating the death of the six-year-old schoolboy have said they are satisfied he did not drown.
Following the inconclusive results of a preliminary post-mortem examination, they are now trying to determine if he died by suffocation in the car in which he was found unresponsive at Rathmoylan Cove, close to Dunmore East.
The 38-year-old woman arrested at the scene is not expected to be medically fit for questioning until tomorrow at the earliest.
The woman, who was known to the child, was detained shortly after he was found just after midnight on Thursday. She was taken into custody under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
However, on being medically assessed, she was deemed in need of medical and psychiatric support and taken to hospital, where she remained last night.
A source said: “She has 24 hours to be questioned, but the clock has not started yet because she was not well enough to be spoken to on being arrested. It is a very tragic case.”
She is believed to be from the south-east and from a family well known and respected in business circles.
Matthew was found in the car following a frantic search by gardaí after an alert from residents at Rathmoylan Cove that a woman was in a distressed condition and screaming that something had happened to a child.
Local people said she was dressed in pyjamas and was knocking on doors and windows.
It is understood the woman raised the alarm with a local resident shortly after midnight Thursday, but subsequently disappeared before help arrived.
“The call came in after midnight,” a source said yesterday.
“The lady appeared in a distressed state down at the Carbally Community Centre … she was banging on the doors of the neighbouring houses shouting for help.
“A local went out to help her and she said to him something about the little boy and then, “I think I’ve done something wrong.”
The source said the neighbour immediately phoned the guards.
“He then went to put the phone back in the house,” he said, “and when he came back out, she was gone. So there was a panic then to find the car.
“The guards were driving up and down … I think Dunmore East was deployed first and then Tramore … and they went looking for her. The car was found just up from Rathmoylan Cove.
“The woman was outside the car and the poor child was inside the car. She had been in the water and was soaking wet.”
The woman was arrested and given emergency medical treatment at the scene.
The child was rushed to University Hospital Waterford (UHW) where, despite the efforts of doctors to stabilise him, he was pronounced dead shortly after 2am.
Gardaí sealed off the scene to allow for a full forensic and technical examination of the area and the vehicle.
A major search was also launched of the access laneway and nearby fields.
Gardaí said the child’s death is being treated as suspicious, given the circumstances.
Yesterday, hundreds of people attended a special vigil in Waterford city centre to express their sorrow and support for Matthew’s family.
The little boy lived in Ballygunner, attended school nearby at Faithlegg National School and played soccer with Park Rangers AFC, where he was a member of the club’s under-7s squad.
A spokesperson for the club said he enjoyed his time with his teammates and coaches.
“It is with great sadness that we learned about the tragic passing of one of our players this week,” the club said in a statement.
“Matthew was a member of our under-7s. He will be sadly missed by teammates and coaches. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this unimaginably difficult time.”
Minister for Education Norma Foley described six-year-old Matthew as a “much-loved and treasured” member of the school community.
Ms Foley extended her sympathy to the family of Matthew Healy, saying he will be greatly missed by the pupils and staff at Faithlegg National
She said: “I’d like to extend my very sincere sympathy to the family of Matthew Healy and the wider community of Waterford, and of course the school community.
“I know Matthew was a much-loved and treasured member of the school community and will be greatly, greatly missed by his fellow pupils, by the staff, board of management and everyone within the school community.
“I’d like to confirm too that our NEPS (National Educational Psychological Service) psychologists are engaging with the school and will be available to provide whatever support is required at this very sad and difficult time.”
There were emotional scenes as hundreds attended Saturday evening’s vigil in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Dr Alphonsus Cullinan who attended the mass said the entire community was left deeply shocked by the tragedy.
In a gesture of solidarity with the heartbroken family, there was a strong attendance at the cathedral by members of the emergency services including gardaí, paramedics and Waterford Fire Brigade personnel – some of whom had fought to try and save the little boy last Friday morning.
Dr Cullinan prayed that those who were left mourning by the tragedy will find comfort and solace.
“Grant that he (Matthew) may flourish forever young in the happiness of your heavenly home,” he said.
“We pray that our prayers will in some way touch the hearts of all who mourn this night. That they may receive peace and consolation and strength.
“I hope and pray that it is a comfort to all of the family and all of you here to gather and pray because I think that is the best thing to do.
“We think of all of those tragedies which we have lived through in our country of late. And we turn to the Lord together.
“I am so encouraged to see so many of you here as we pray together. There is a great strength in that. There is a great beauty in that.”
He prayed that the heartbroken family and all those who mourn will find “the strength to carry on – to give us consolation and to give us peace.”