Wednesday 20 September 2017

Brother 'disappointed' with inquest verdict into stairs death

Brothers Cyril and James Goonan, leaving Tullamore Courthouse, where an inquest is taking place into the death of their brother James. Photo: APX
Brothers Cyril and James Goonan, leaving Tullamore Courthouse, where an inquest is taking place into the death of their brother James. Photo: APX

Eoghan MacConnell

A jury has returned a verdict of death due to shock and bleeding from a head wound following an inquest into the death of James Goonan.

The 51-year-old died on the stairs at his home on March 11, 2002. He had suffered an injury to the back of his head and was wearing only socks.

After a three-day inquest in Tullamore, the jury returned a verdict in accordance with State Pathologist Marie Cassidy's medical evidence.

She found Mr Goonan had died from haemorrhage and shock as a result of a cut to the head.

Mr Goonan's brother Cyril said he was "very disappointed" with the verdict.

Earlier, Mr Goonan's widow Phyllis Goonan denied having taken out, or benefited from, any insurance policies on her husband.

In previous evidence, she told how she had been playing cards in their home with her husband and mother-in-law in the hours leading up to his death.

Read more: Widow has 'no recollection' of nine hours before she discovered naked husband injured on stairs - inquest hears

Mrs Goonan said she fell asleep soon after her mother-in-law Sheila left and woke up at around 3am when she found her husband lying naked on the stairs injured.

She said she wiped blood from his head with a tissue, covered him with a coat and lay down beside him. At around 6.30am she woke up and realised he wasn't breathing. She then called her mother-in-law.

During lengthy questioning, Johnnie McCoy BL appearing for Mr Goonan's brother Cyril, asked Mrs Goonan if she was distancing herself from the facts. "I didn't need to distance myself from anything because I am not guilty of anything," she answered.

Coroner Brian Mahon expressed a belief that alcohol had a large role in the death. He described the case as "the longest inquest I have ever dealt with in 14 years".

He said Mrs Goonan's evidence had caused him concern.

Mr Mahon said the Garda investigation began "satisfactorily" but it was a mistake not to carry out a "comprehensive examination of the upstairs of the house". He believes this wasn't done due to any conspiracy, but because a decision was made to downscale the investigation.

A tragic aspect of the case was the evidence from Dr Cassidy that Mr Goonan, of Hawthorn Drive, Crinkle, Birr, Co Offaly, might have survived had he received timely medical intervention, Mr Mahon said.

Irish Independent

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