Thursday 29 September 2016

Garda flaws undermine probe into Kate's death

Report highlights serious errors in investigation of apparent suicide

Published 27/01/2013 | 05:00

AN inquiry ordered by the Garda Ombudsman is understood to highlight serious procedural errors in the force's handling of the investigation into the death of Kate Fitzgerald.

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The 25-year-old media consultant was presumed to have died by suicide when her body was found in her south Dublin apartment in August 2011 but her parents, Tom and Sally Fitzgerald, do not believe she took her own life.

The inquiry conducted by gardai at Pearse Street is believed to support their complaints that the investigation into the circumstances of Kate's death was inadequate. According to senior sources, it points to a series of oversights that were compounded by a garda who attended to the scene going on sick leave. Kate's parents were led to believe by the garda that the circumstances of their daughter's death were being fully investigated.

All suspected suicides are routinely investigated by gardai in order to rule out foul play and to prepare a report for a coroner's inquest. According to informed sources, key procedures were not followed in Kate's case.

In a further complication, Kate's body was cremated after her father sought what he said was a "100 per cent assurance" from the garda that there was no doubt that her death was suicide.

Tom Fitzgerald has since said that, months after Kate's death, he received an autopsy report which highlighted a broken bone in her neck, and which he claimed was not consistent with suicidal hanging.

The findings of the garda inquiry are expected to be presented in a report to the Ombudsman, which is investigating a complaint made by Tom and Sally Fitzgerald.

But while Kate's family want her death be fully investigated, the Ombudsman inquiry has focussed on mainly disciplinary issues. The report is likely to be requested for the inquest which takes place on February 27.

Kate's death resonated across social media after she was identified as the author of an anonymous newspaper article on depression in the workplace. She filed the article hours before she died.

Kate, who was born in America before her parents moved to Ireland, was chairperson of the Irish branch of the American Democrat Party organisation, Democrats Abroad.

At a dinner last Monday, at which Kate was honoured, her father said: "Kate has been dead now for 17 months and we still have no reliable garda report on how she died. . . For six months, we believed Kate took her own life. Then the autopsy report came and we realised that she did not take her own life. But the stories were out in the media. We had gone on television and we had said that Kate took her own life. And it's still out there. . . I believe from all the research I've done, and I've looked at every email and every text that she sent in the last month of her life, and I've to people who she talked to, and Kate Fitzgerald did not take her own life."

He asked the members of Democrats Abroad to "contact anyone who might be able to influence our search for justice and closure in the case of Kate's death. We do not wish to pervert justice, we only seek a timely and proper investigation into the cause of her death."

The chairman of Democrats Abroad said the organisation would engage in a "letter writing campaign" on her family's behalf.

Sunday Independent

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