Inquest ruling infuriates family
Coroner accepts woman died of hypothermia but says flat 'wasn't freezing'
Published 07/04/2011 | 05:00
THE family of a young woman who died of hypothermia were furious last night after an inquiry returned the verdict of death by misadventure.
Rachel Peavoy (30), a mother of two, was found dead in her flat in Ballymun, Dublin on January 11, 2010.
Dublin City corner Dr Brian Farrell last night accepted that Ms Peavoy died of hypothermia but ruled that her flat "wasn't freezing" at the time of death.
He ruled that contributing factors included the damp and wet in the flat and that it was one of the coldest nights of the year. A number of legal drugs found in her system and the fact she had not eaten for three days at the time were also factors.
There were chaotic scenes in the courtroom as the verdict was read out, with family members and friends furious at Dr Farrell's summary on the flat's heating system.
At one stage Ms Peavoy's brother Terry stormed out of the courtroom questioning the validity of new evidence.
The verdict came after Jacquline Johnson, a friend of Ms Peavoy, who discovered the body, made a surprise addition to her statement at the final day of the hearing.
Ms Johnson, of Ballymun, said she had opened windows in the apartment after she discovered the body. The issue over whether the windows were open or closed at the time the body was found led to the case's adjournment last month.
Ms Johnson said that there was a "waft of warm air" from the apartment and a strong musky smell when she opened the door on the night. Ms Peavoy's sister Leontia stood outside as she entered the flat.
Ms Johnson said she opened the kitchen windows and tied back the curtains.
She then opened the windows in the sitting room but closed them again after a "gale force" wind blew through the house.
Asked why she had opened the windows, she said it was to get rid of the smell.
In her statement Ms Johnson said that the flat was warm when she entered and that there was vomit in a basin in Ms Peavoy's room.
However, in evidence she said she was not sure about either aspects of her statement but said that when she entered it was neither warm nor freezing.
Dr Farrell accepted earlier evidence from the council that the heating in the room was working and that Ms Johnson's evidence explained why the room was described as freezing by gardai.
There was a round of applause as Dr Ciaran Craven, counsel for Rachel Peavoy's family, said an inquiry was needed.
In a recommendation, Dr Farrell said that he would write to Dublin City Council to advise them to review their policy of "de-tenanting" at the Ballymun flats. He said particular attention should be paid to vulnerable people.
Speaking to the Irish Independent afterwards Michael Duffy, uncle of Ms Peavoy, said he was angered by the judgment. "How can someone die of the cold if the heating is working in the apartment? It doesn't make sense," he said.
A statement read out on behalf of the family by solicitor Teresa Gavin said they wanted to see an inquest into the death ordered by the Environment Minister.
"It's clear there are significant problems with Dublin City Council's management of the Ballymun regeneration programme," she said.
She added that they were disappointed with the ruling and would be reflecting on their legal options.