Couple die from hypothermia after heating turned off
The gas heating in an apartment where a couple suffering hypothermia were found dead had been switched off at the occupier’s request, an inquest heard.
Dublin City Council had provided John Glennon (66) with electric heaters but when gardaí entered the apartment at Drumalee Court, North Circular Road, Dublin 7, they found that a trip switch had cut off the power supply.
Mr Glennon was found dead alongside his partner Deborah McEvoy (63) on their bedroom floor on Monday, January 14 last year during cold weather. They had been dead for at least 24 hours.
Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that Ms McEvoy was last seen by a neighbour on the Saturday morning prior. Sergeant John Dunne said that gardaí believe that Mr Glennon was also alive at that time.
The alarm was raised by city council liaison officer Rita Cannon who regularly checked on Mr Glennon. He had been living in the council owned apartment complex since 2004. The court heard that Ms McEvoy had moved in the previous September.
When gardaí entered the apartment they found the couple lying head-to-toe beside each other.
Both were fully clothed, however, Ms McEvoy’s abdomen was exposed leaving her more vulnerable to the cold. Mr Glennon was partially covered by a duvet hanging off the edge of a single bed.
An electric oil heater was lying flat on the ground next to the couple. When gardaí flipped the trip switch to restore power, a lamp in the room lit up.
Ms Cannon told the court that the gas heating in the apartment had been disconnected. “I provided him with two small electric heaters on two separate occasions as the weather was so severe,” she said.
The heating was disconnected in January 2007 and Sgt Dunne told the coroner that this was done at Mr Glennon’s request. He said that the oil heater found lying flat in the room would have switched off automatically when it fell on its side.
The apartment was checked for carbon monoxide and gas leaks by Bord Gais technicians and none where found.
The postmortem was carried out by then deputy state pathologist Dr Khalid Jaber. He gave hypothermia as the cause of death for Ms McEvoy. In Mr Glennon’s case, Dr Jaber found evidence of a heart attack with an element of hypothermia and on a background of poor nutritional status. Neither had alcohol or medication in their system at the time of death and no food was found in their stomachs.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned a verdict of death by misadventure for Ms McEvoy. He returned a narrative verdict outlining the facts in Mr Glennon’s case saying that he may have sustained a heart attack with hypothermia a secondary condition.