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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Katy and the €29m cocaine dealer

Conor Feehan and Eimear Cotter

Published 17/07/2013 | 11:48

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Model Katy French and convicted drug dealer 'Mr Clean' Gareth Hopkins
Model Katy French, who died in December 2007
Katy French and with her former fiance Marcus Sweeney

THIS is tragic model Katy French with one of the country’s biggest cocaine dealers just months before her death.

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She is with ‘Mr Clean’ Gareth Hopkins, who is currently in prison for importing €29m of the drug.

An inquest has heard how Katy had traces of cocaine in her system when she died days after her high-profile 24th birthday party.

Just a few weeks before her death, she told a Sunday newspaper that she had used cocaine, branding it part of the Dublin social scene.

She had also told her mother that she was “fed up seeing so many of her friends lives ruined by it”.

Trinity graduate Hopkins (33) was jailed for 13 years last June for importing the largest consignments of cocaine ever seized on Irish soil.

While there is no suggestion that Katy and Hopkins ever transacted drugs or money with each other, the pair from opposite sides of the supply-and-use-chain rubbed shoulders on the social scene.

Yesterday a coroner concluded that the model died from oxygen starvation to her brain as a result of cocaine and ephedrine.

Coroner John Lacy returned an open verdict. The inquest heard the last two people to see Ms French alive changed their evidence. Businessman Kieron Ducie (43) and his former girlfriend Ann Corcoran (32) both told the coroner they got the timings wrong in their garda statements in relation to when they became aware Katy was ill.

They denied there was a 90-minute gap between when they said they found the model and when she was brought to hospital.

The 24-year-old model died in Our Lady's Hospital in Navan on December 6, 2007, four days after being admitted. Ducie, from Lambertstown Manor, Kilmessan, in Co Meath, and Corcoran, from Tolka Road, in Dublin, were both given suspended jail sentences earlier this year in relation to her death. They admitted 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.

Giving evidence at the inquest, Ducie said he couldn't remember details of the night she collapsed because he had drunk a litre and a half of vodka that night.

Ms Corcoran said Katy arrived at her house around 1am on December 2, 2007. The pair sat up chatting and drinking champagne, with Katy also drinking Red Bull and vodka.

Ms Corcoran said Katy started slurring her words after two glasses of champagne. Mr Ducie said the women were still up chatting when he arrived home around 6.30am. He said Katy was upset, about her break-up with her boyfriend and with her struggles with the media.

Mr Ducie said Katy went to bed and 10 minutes later the couple heard a loud bang. He said he and Ann went downstairs and saw Katy was “bouncing up and down” off the ground, her eyes were bulging and foam was coming out of her mouth.

Mr Ducie said he drove Ms French to Navan hospital.

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. He said he told doctors that he did not know if she had taken drugs.

Mr Ducie said he was informed by hospital staff that Katy's heart was enlarged and her nose and liver were destroyed which was due to substance abuse over a long period. However, this was contradicted by medical staff, who said this was not true.

In her evidence, Dr Marie Cassidy said the level of cocaine in Ms French was not particularly high.

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