Saturday 1 October 2016

Another woman was with MS sufferer Bernadette Forde when she took her own life - court

By Conor Gallagher

Published 23/04/2015 | 15:32

Gail O’Rorke
Gail O’Rorke

A woman accused of helping her friend take her own life alleged to gardaí that another person was with the deceased when she took a lethal dose of barbiturates.

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Bernadette Forde (51), a former human resources manager with Guinness, took her own life in June 2011 using the drug pentobarbital when she was in the latter stages of multiple sclerosis.

Her friend and carer Gail O’Rorke (43) is accused of helping her obtain the drug from Mexico and take it. She is also accused of attempting to help Ms Forde get to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland, a plan that was thwarted when the travel agent alerted gardaí.

The prosecution has now concluded its evidence. The jury will learn tomorrow if there will be defence witnesses.

Ms O’Rorke (43), a taxi driver from Kilclare Gardens, Tallaght has pleaded not (NOT) guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to aiding and abetting the suicide of Ms Forde by helping her to procure and administer a toxic substance between April 20, 2011 and June 6, 2011 at a location in Dublin.

She also denies that she attempted to aid and abet the suicide of Ms Forde by means of attempting to arrange travel to Zurich, Switzerland for such purpose between March 10 and April 20, 2011 and that she procured the suicide of Ms Forde between June 4 and June 6, 2011 by means of making funeral arrangements for Ms Forde in advance of her death.

Gail O'Rorke arrives at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Dublin, where she went on trial in connection with the assisted suicide of MS sufferer Bernadette Forde
Gail O'Rorke arrives at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Dublin, where she went on trial in connection with the assisted suicide of MS sufferer Bernadette Forde
Gail O’Rorke at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Today the trial heard that Ms O’Rorke told gardaí in interview that another friend, Mary Lundy, had got in contact with euthanasia organisation Exit International on behalf of Ms Forde.

Detective Inspector Sean Campbell said that he interviewed Gail O’Rorke in August 2011, two months after the death of Ms Forde. He said Ms O’Rorke claimed that Ms Lundy had used the deceased’s credit card to buy a book online which detailed methods of suicide.

Ms O’Rorke said that Ms Lundy also set up a “Hushmail” account, a private email service, to make contact with Exit International. Ms O’Rorke said the deceased was the “driving force behind this plan.”

She said that on Sunday June 5, 2011 she went to Ms Forde’s house.  She said she washed her and talked about “some very important things.” Several family members then came to visit.

“Everyone knew what she was doing, they all knew,” Ms O’Rorke said.

The accused said the plan was that she and her husband would go to a hotel in Kilkenny which had been booked and paid for by Ms Forde.

“I knew there was a good chance I would ring on Monday morning and she wouldn’t answer. I hoped she had the bravery to do it.” Ms O’Rorke said.

She said: “I told her if I rang on Monday and she answered, it was ok. There were other options.”

Asked by gardaí what she meant by other options, she replied: “A care home, Bernadette’s worst nightmare.”

Ms O’Rorke told gardaí that Ms Lundy “had taken over the reins” in organising the suicide after the Dignitas episode and she had taken a step back.

She said Ms Lundy was very upset when the Dignitas trip was stopped and wanted to accompany Ms Forde herself as the gardaí wouldn’t be looking for her. The accused said she and Ms Forde had to talk her out of this plan.

The accused told gardaí that she transferred €400 to Mexico on behalf of Mr Forde but that she didn’t know that this was for the drugs until later when Mr Forde told her.

She said she was there when the courier delivered the pills and that Ms Forde “cried with relief.”

Ms O’Rorke said she never touched the drugs, adding: ‘I was terrified of having anything to do with it. She had totally taken over her own stuff. She was trying to keep us all as safe as she could. I wouldn’t have touched anything with a barge pole.”

Gardaí asked if there was anyone with Ms Forde when she took the pills. She replied that it was agreed beforehand that Ms Lundy would be there.

She said Ms Lundy later told her that they had a few drinks and at about half eight or nine Ms Forde said it was time. She said she took the drink and asked “didn’t I do well?” Ms Lundy allegedly responded that she did great.

She said Ms Lundy told her that after two minutes nothing had happened and Ms Forde began to panic that she had bought “a dud”. She then started snoring and Ms Lundy left her as she was close to death.

Ms O’Rorke said that they agreed with Ms Forde that they would all say afterwards that the deceased “was very much alive” when Ms Lundy left.

She said Ms Lundy called her later that week and told her it was the hardest thing she ever had to do and “she didn’t know how she was going to go home and act normal in front of her sons.”

Det Insp Campbell told defence counsel Dermott McGuinness SC that Ms Lundy was arrested and interviewed the next December. She replied “nothing to say” to questions about where she was when Ms Forde died and about her alleged involvement in the preparations.

She said in a later interview that she left Ms Forde’s house at about 6pm. Det Insp Campbell agreed that neither Ms Lundy nor anyone else, aside from the accused, was ever charged in connection with the suicide.

Ms O’Rorke also said in interview that Tom Curran, who was the representative of Exit International in Ireland, was in touch with Ms Forde before her death and had given her advice. Det Insp Campbell said Mr Curran was interviewed but made no comment.

The trial continues before Judge Patrick McCartan and a jury of six men and six women.

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