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Saturday 20 September 2014

Chef Derry Clarke's late son had traces of cocaine and benzodiazepines in his body, inquest told

Devastated mother Sallyanne desperately tried to save her son by carrying out CPR

Gareth Naughton

Published 03/07/2014 | 12:16

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Restaurateurs Derry Clarke and Sallyanne Parker-Clarke have urged vulnerable young people in trouble to seek help, following the inquest into the death of their teenage son.

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Andrew Clarke (16) was found slumped against a car having hanged himself in the garage of the family home on Meegans Lane, Crooksling in Brittas, south county Dublin on December 27 last year. He died four days later at Tallaght Hospital.

Dublin coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned an open verdict after a urine analysis carried out on Andrew’s admission to hospital found cocaine and benzodiazepines casting doubt on his state of mind at the time of the hanging.

His parents were present in court along with their daughter Sarah-May. They declined to give evidence from the witness box but their depositions were read into the record.

Ms Parker-Clarke said that she discovered Andrew slumped against his car in the garage when she went to call him for brunch at 1.35pm. He had gone out to the garage about 25 minutes earlier.

When she discovered him he was unconscious and was still hanging. She immediately attempted to lift him, she said, but he was six foot four and weighed 17 stone so she was unable to do so.

She screamed for help and Mr Clarke arrived along with Sarah-May and her boyfriend Diarmuid O’Connor.

L to R - Andrew Clarke, Sally Anne Clarke, Sarah May Clarke and Derry Clarke
Andrew Clarke, Sally Anne Clarke, Sarah May Clarke and Derry Clarke at a previous Christmas dinner
Andrew Clarke , son of Derry and SallyAnne

“We cut the cord and laid him on the ground beside his car and I started CPR with Diarmuid. Sarah-May called for medical aid which subsequently arrived. The ambulance men took over CPR and removed him to a waiting ambulance where they got a heartbeat,” she said.

Dr Farrell told the family that were it not for their prompt intervention, Andrew would likely have died at the scene.

He was taken to Tallaght Hospital where a scan showed evidence of hypoxic brain injury, caused when his brain was deprived of oxygen during the hanging incident. Brain stem death was later confirmed.

Andrew died on the afternoon of December 31.

The court heard that three people benefitted from organ donation following his death.

The pathologist gave the cause of death as a hypoxic brain injury as a result of asphyxia due to hanging.

Dr Farrell said that a urine screen carried out on Andrew’s admission to hospital found cocaine, benzodiazepines and painkiller medication in his system. At post-mortem, a breakdown product of cocaine was present.

Barrister for the family Paul McGarry SC said that they had been “very surprised” and “shocked” when they heard the toxicology results.

The court heard that there was no history of clinical depression or self-harm and Mr McGarry said that Andrew’s death had come “completely out of the blue”.

Ms Parker-Clarke said that her son had been in "normal humour and mood" on the day of the incident.

“He had not displayed any unusual behaviour. We had opened a number of Christmas presents and he had been up and down to his garage working on his car several times already that morning. We are totally and utterly devastated and dearly miss our darling son,” she said.

Returning the open verdict, Dr Farrell said that he did not believe the evidence met the standard required to return a verdict of suicide. The presence of cocaine and benzodiazepines, in particular, went to the question of intention, he said.

Speaking for the family, Mr McGarry told the coroner that they were “deeply saddened by the loss of their darling son and brother” and they urge people to “seek help” particularly vulnerable young people.

He said that they had found “particular solace” in services such as Teenline and Console and urged that these organisations should be supported in the future.

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