TWO children have lost their mothers after a man carried out a horrific double murder before taking his own life in Co Antrim.
Ken Flanagan stabbed his mother, Karen McClean, to death in a house on the Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey on Friday night before travelling to a nearby property where he then killed his girlfriend, Stacey Knell.
Neighbours heard Ms McClean, a mother-of-two, scream “I’m dying, I’m dying… it’s my son” in the moments after the attack.
She recently wrote of her “unconditional love” for her son as he battled drug addiction. Ms McClean leaves behind a daughter of school age.
Ms Knell, in her 30s and originally from east Belfast, had a nine-year daughter.
Police have confirmed they received a report about Flanagan in the hours before the double-murder.
It has emerged that Ms Knell’s ex-partner and father of her child, Sam Lillie, alerted social services and the PSNI about his Flanagan’s violent behaviour early on Friday, saying he feared for his little girl’s safety.
Chief Superintendent Davy Beck, PSNI north area commander, said: “Police received a report of concern for the safety of a child yesterday on Friday, 19 March.
“Following review, there was no evidence of immediate concern for the child’s safety and the caller was provided with advice in respect of the matter.”
Mr Lillie told the Sunday World newspaper: “I knew of Ken and I knew he was bad news. It’s not for me to say who my ex-partner goes out with but I just didn’t want him being around my daughter.
“…I really tried my best. I tried to raise awareness and no-one did anything about it. The fact of the matter is I know Ken was a danger to my daughter and also Stacey, I knew all about him. I knew he was an unstable man.”
Police said that while they have launched a murder investigation, they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the crime.
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell said they received reports at 10.55pm on Friday about a stabbing at a house in the Derrycoole Way area.
Police and ambulance crews were called to the scene where Ms Clean was pronounced dead.
“As officers carried out further enquiries, they attended a residential property in the Glenville Road area. An unconscious male was located in the property. Despite the provision of first aid, the male was pronounced dead. On searching the property, another deceased female was located.”
Neighbours spoke of their shock over the weekend about the murders and suicide.
It is understood the house on nearby Glenville road had been passed down the Flanagan’s family for generations.
One neighbour in the quiet residential area described it as a ‘party house’ and said there had been a recent fire while Ken Flanagan was inside sleeping. A car was also set on fire outside.
It is understood Flanagan had previously been ordered to stay away from his mother’s house by authorities due to his violent behaviour.
On her son’s birthday in April last year, Ms McClean wrote on social media: “Let’s pray for a better future. Love you, son.” She said she loved her two children “more than life”.
And in a separate post last March, she praised her son for trying to stay off drugs while hitting out at critics of those struggling with addiction.
“So proud of my beautiful son (for) staying clean. I’ve finally got him back. I pray he continues to beat his disease.
“Anybody who judges him or any addict, or calls them junkies, especially when they’ve took drugs, is hypocritical.
“Walk a mile in my shoes as a loving devoted mother. Addicts are so vulnerable. They still need loved. I love you, son. Stay strong.”
The brutal murders have led to mounting pressure on Northern Ireland politicians to introduce a strategy to protect women and girls against violence.
Prior to this weekend, there have been six women murdered by their partners since 2015 despite previously reporting them to police.
The north is the only part of the UK that does not have a specific strategy.
Justice Minister Naomi Long said she plans to bring a paper to the Executive in the coming days to address the issue.
“I’m also bringing forward a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill which will be at the Assembly in May and that will deal with a wide range of issues which Sir John Gillen identified in his review of serious sexual offences,” Ms Long told BBC Sunday Politics programme.
Kelly Andrews, CEO of Women’s Aid in Belfast, said that a gender-neutral strategy “does not cut it”.
“Two women in the UK are murdered every single week and tragically in Northern Ireland on Friday night we had the murder of two women,” she said.
“We really need to recognise the gender-specific nature of domestic abuse. Seventy per cent of domestic abuse victims are female and that really needs to be recognised. So, having a gender-neutral strategy really doesn’t cut it.
“We believe that having gender-neutral language in a strategy doesn’t work.
“We’re the only part of the UK that does not have one, we need to focus on early intervention of schools, about healthy relationships and conversations about consent for boys and girls.
“We need to be looking at workplace policies, we also need to focus as well on perpetrators and reducing reoffending.
“We need to get men involved in the conversation to call out misogynistic behaviour when they see it as well.”