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Sunday 4 December 2016

Woman who killed son took own life

Prisoner used wire from jail workshop to aid suicide, inquest told

Georgina O'Halloran

Published 08/09/2011 | 05:00

Ruth Murphy: found in her
room with bags over head
Ruth Murphy: found in her room with bags over head

A WOMAN who killed her son later took her own life using wire likely to have been taken from a prison workshop, an inquest has heard.

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Ruth Murphy (48) was found unresponsive in the shower area of her room at the Dochas female prison in Dublin after tying plastic bags around her head using the wire.

The jury at the inquest yesterday called on prison authorities to review and log all materials used in prison workshops and prevent the removal of "potentially dangerous items" to cells.

Assistant chief officer Jean O'Reilly, who raised the alarm during a routine check of rooms, broke down in tears giving evidence at the Dublin City Coroner's Court.

Ms O'Reilly called for medical help after finding Murphy, formerly of Alsac House, Newbridge, Co Kildare, unresponsive at 12.40am on August 18, 2010.

A post-mortem examination found that Murphy, who had a history of depression for which she was on medication, died from asphyxia due to the placing of plastic bags around her head.

One of the bags around her head was secured with a significant length of wire and yesterday the inquest heard that, on the balance of probability, the wire came from the jewellery workshop at the prison.

A garda investigation found there was no third-party involvement.

Drowned

At the time of the death prisoners were permitted to have plastic bags, but plastic bags are no longer allowed into the women's prison.

Speaking from the body of the court, her brother Ken Murphy said he did not know how the wire got from "the safe environment of a workshop to a prison cell... where she used it as an instrument in her demise".

Giving evidence, Governor Mary O'Connor said the wire was consistent with wire used in jewellery classes.

The jewellery-making classes took place in the school workshop area, which was open between 10am and 12.30pm and between 2pm and 4.30pm.

Murphy attended classes, Ms O'Connor said.

The inquest was also told there was no logbook kept of materials in the workshop.

A jury of five men and one woman returned a verdict of death by suicide under the direction of coroner Dr Brian Farrell.

Murphy was jailed for life in 2004 for the murder of her seven-year-old son Karl at North Beach, Greystones, in June 2001.

She drowned the little boy, holding him down in the water, and left him fully clothed on the beach.

She was seen by a psychiatrist in June 2010 and was assessed as being well with no significant psychiatric symptoms.

The Dochas Centre's GP, Dr Therese Boyle, said she was not considered a high suicide risk at the time and had not been assessed as being at risk of self-harm.

The coroner expressed his condolences to her family.

"I am aware of the particularly tragic background circumstances and I'm really sorry to hear about all of that and about Ms Murphy's death," he said.

Irish Independent

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