independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Open verdict in Katy French inquest after key witnesses change statements

Katy French

THE coroner at the inquest into the death of model Katy French has returned an open verdict after two key witnesses changed their statements.

Kieron Ducie and Ann Corcoran both told the inquest in Trim, Co Meath this morning that they wanted to alter the crucial timing in relation to when they became aware that the 24-year-old model was ill.

Both initially told gardai and nurses in Navan hospital that Ms French had a seizure around 8.15am on December 2, 2007.

However, they today told an inquest into her death that they cannot be sure what time it was.

Ms French died on 6 December 2007 – several days after being admitted to Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan.

Earlier this year the two friends of Ms French received suspended sentences for a drugs offence on the weekend she collapsed at their home.

Mr Ducie (43) and Ms Corcoran (32) pleaded guilty to procuring another man - Russell Memery - to possess cocaine for the purpose of sale or supply at an unknown location between 6pm on Saturday, December 1, 2007, and 10am the following day.

Mr Ducie received a two-and-a-half year sentence suspended on a bond of good behaviour for three years.

Ms Corcoran sentence of two years was also suspended on a bond of good behaviour for two years.

A second charge of failing to obtain medical assistance for Ms French in a timely fashion was dropped.

In evidence today, Kieron Ducie told the inquest he was intoxicated and had consumed 1.5 litres of vodka during the night before and early hours of the morning before driving Ms French to hospital.

Mr Ducie said he only took her to hospital at that point as there had been "nothing wrong with her" before that point and she had simply went to bed.

The pair previously denied there was a 90-minute gap between when they said they found the model - face down on a bedroom floor, fitting, with her head back and arms and legs outstretched - and arriving at a nearby hospital, where staff were told she had been drinking champagne, vodka and red bull but not seen taking drugs.

Today Mr Ducie told the inquest he could not remember what time he arrived back to the house at. "I couldn't be accurate on times," he said.

"There was a lot of duress from an Garda Siochana, they were desperate for a conviction," he said.

Ducie's former girlfriend Ann Corcoroan denied cleaning up Ducie's house before a Garda search of the property.

John McGuigan, who is representing the French family, argued no one knows what exactly happened in the home besides the couple, who's evidence the family dismisses.

Speaking outside the courthouse, the French family said they were pleased with the open verdict.

"We welcome the open verdict which has confirmed what we thought all along there are still a lot of unanswered questions, particularly about what happened before Katy was brought to the hospital," said Janet French.

Giving evidence, State Pathologist Marie Cassidy earlier said the level of cocaine found in Ms French was not particularly high or excessive

Tests showed the 24-year-old had had a "sip" of alcohol and very little drugs or agents, she said.

The cause of death was given as hypoxic ischemic brain injury - when the brain was starved of oxygen - due to cocaine and ephedrine, a substance she said can be mistaken for ecstasy.

She said 1.9 micrograms of the breakdown products of cocaine and ephedrine were found in Ms French's blood.

The post mortem found she died from injuries to the brain from seizures from cocaine and ephedrine.

"People don't realise how unpredictable a drug it is," Dr Cassidy said.

The coroner John Lacy found Ms French had died from hypoxic-ischemic brain injury due to cocaine and ephedrine and brought in an open verdict.

"There are gaps and unanswered questions," he said.

He warned people that cocaine is a "very dangerous" drug. If a person takes it and gives it up but replapses ad takes a small amount, then it can have fatal consequences, he warned, adding he was not referring specifically to Ms French.

He described her as an ‘articulate, dynamic and open young woman’, adding she didn’t deserve to die in such a way.

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