Care teenager found dead in squat clutching rosary beads
Published 23/07/2010 | 05:00
A TEENAGER who was in the care of the HSE was found dead in a rubbish-strewn squat whilst clutching a pair of rosary beads.
Despite gardai and medics being told his body was lying in a room, they didn't look while searching a house and the body was not removed for another two days.
Christopher O'Driscoll's tragic story was told yesterday at an inquest into his death.
The 17-year-old had been in the care of the State since the age of 10 and last night his mother said he had been failed by the State.
The inquest heard:
- He was covered in scars and scabs when his body was found.
- He weighed just 54kg (8.5 stone).
- He was so disturbed he tried to throw himself under a car.
- A social worker failed to report him missing after he was kicked out of a hotel that she had paid for using her own credit card.
- Gardai and ambulance workers, despite being present inside the squat, did not check a room where Christopher's body lay. He was not found for another two days.
A verdict of death by misadventure was recorded after the court heard he had died from severe pneumonia.
The condition was complicated by the presence of heroin and prescription drugs in his body.
During the course of yesterday's inquest at Cork City Coroner's Court, the three men and three women of the jury heard that Christopher O'Driscoll had been in the care of the Health Service Executive since he was 10 and had been abusing drugs since the age of 12. He had spent periods in psychiatric care for a number of years and had been self-harming since 10.
One month before his death, the teenager was admitted to A&E with a suspected heroin overdose. He was subsequently diagnosed with a severe iron deficiency and pneumonia but discharged himself against medical advice.
Two weeks before his death, Christopher was thrown out of a hostel for homeless adolescent boys following two violent incidents just days apart in which he attempted to bite a member of staff, smashed windows and set fire to bins.
As he fled the centre on the Ballyhooly Road in Cork, the teenager threw himself under a passing car and was knocked down.
Hostel staff described how he then threatened motorists and kicked a number of cars with small children in them.
HSE worker Carmel Walsh told the inquest that just one week before his death she was called by gardai following Christopher's arrest and found him in "an absolutely appalling state".
"It had been a very wet night and he was soaked through and through, he smelt, he looked bad, his eyes were very dark, he was pale and had lost weight," she said.
He also had a cut to his hand and one of his fingers was "badly infected and very swollen".
The healthcare worker described the situation as an emergency and said she used her own credit card to book accommodation for Christopher in a hotel.
But later that night he was ejected from the hotel for causing a disturbance and was never seen alive again by Ms Walsh, who admitted that she did not contact the gardai to report him missing.
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest that it was not possible to say how long the 17-year-old had been dead when his remains were found at Strowan Villas, Gardiner's Hill, Cork on May 8, 2009.
However, details emerged of how the gardai were called to the scene, but failed to find his body.
Two days previously, an ambulance crew and gardai were told of the presence of a possible dead body in the squat by home-help worker Mary Dillon in the next-door neighbour's house.
Ms Dillon said that upon entering the front room of the house she saw the teenager lying on the ground and assumed he was dead because he didn't look back at her. The inquest heard that neither the ambulance crew nor the gardai entered this room and instead found a man and a woman on the first floor of the house, who refused medical assistance and were escorted from the squat by gardai.
Two days later Christopher was confirmed dead at the scene after a homeless man came across his remains and alerted gardai.
Speaking after the inquest, Christopher's mother Miriam Hayes said she would always blame herself for the way in which her son died but added that she felt the State had let Christopher down, especially in the final weeks of his life.
"They (the HSE) knew that he was sick, they also knew that he had drug problems but, besides that, (because of) his health there should have been a lot more done for him," she said. "It does bother me a lot that he died in a squat on his own, a 17-year-old boy."
A statement from the HSE last night said everyone involved in Christopher's case deeply regretted that he died while in the care of the executive. The HSE said it had notified the Government's independent review group into child deaths about the case and did not wish to pre-empt its findings by commenting further.