independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Hopes for full truth on Katy tragedy fade

Model's family had hoped her one-time friends would have faced other charges, write Maeve Sheehan and Niamh Horan

AS the fifth anniversary of Katy French's death approaches next month, the prospects of her family learning the full truth about her tragic death have dimmed.

In Trim Circuit Court last week, Katy's one-time friends, Kieron Ducie, 43, and his former girlfriend, Ann Corcoran, 32, pleaded guilty to procuring someone to supply the model with cocaine.

Katy took the drug at their house in Kilmessan in Co Meath and later went into a seizure. There were suspicions that it was another couple of hours before medical assistance was sought. Her body was already shutting down by the time Ducie and Corcoran brought her to hospital. Staff were not told that Katy had taken drugs.

A post-mortem examination revealed that she suffered brain damage and traces of cocaine were found in her system.

The family had expected that Ducie and Corcoran would face other charges relating to her death. Last week, the court was told that charges that the couple had recklessly engaged in conduct relating to the supply of cocaine, and had failed to get her swift medical assistance, would not be pursued.

Ducie and Corcoran will be sentenced for the drug offences next February, bringing to a close the criminal investigations into the model's death. The man they procured to supply the cocaine, Russell Memery, was given a two-year suspended sentence two years ago for his role in the tragedy.

It is now unlikely that anyone will face charges directly relating to her death.

At the time she died, Katy was 24, at the end of a trailblazing year in which she transformed herself from anonymous Irish model to celebrity, on the back of a few publicity stunts and her engaging personality. She was at the top of her game, but friends said she was down. Among other things, she was upset at catty comments about her celebrity birthday party, which she had milked for publicity.

She spent the day before her collapse – Saturday, December 1 – shooting a television pilot series with fellow model Andrea Roche. She ate dinner at home that evening with her mother, Janet, and her sister, Jill, at the family home in Stillorgan.

Later that evening, restless and wanting to go out, she started texting her friends, including Ducie. He later disclosed her final texts to a tabloid newspaper.

According to the text messages leaked by Ducie, Katy wanted someone to talk to, so she called on Ducie's girlfriend, Corcoran, in Kilmessan, Co Meath, while he was out clubbing.

However, in his statement to gardai, Memery claimed that on the night before Katy collapsed he received a call from Ducie at about 11.45pm. Memery acquired some cocaine and asked a friend to drive him to the arranged pick-up point in a petrol station in Clonee where Katy was waiting for him. Memery claimed that he was directed there by Corcoran, who rang him on his mobile phone.

Memery got into Katy's jeep and handed over the drugs in exchange for €200. Memery claimed that afterwards, he gave the money to the mysterious "third party" who supplied him with the cocaine.

Ducie got home at about 6am. He later told how Ann and Katy had sat up chatting and drinking for another hour and a half. He claimed that Katy had had a lot of drink and wanted to drive home, so he took the car keys from her.

"She looked drunk and was upset because she had a good few drinks, a couple of bottles of champagne, but she didn't look unwell," he said in one interview.

He said Katy went to bed in the spare room. Afterwards, Ducie sat up with his girlfriend for another 15 minutes. Then they heard a thud, coming from the spare bedroom where Katy slept. They found her on the floor.

Gardai suspected that the time was by now close to 8.30am. The nearest hospital was 13km away in Navan, a 25-minute drive.

But Ducie told a newspaper that it was 9.30am when he heard her fall out of bed. That was why he did not have time to call an ambulance. He also denied claims that he delayed bringing her to hospital to give him time to clean the house.

"The minute I saw Katy was ill, I knew the time frame for an ambulance to get to my house was around 20 minutes. So it was a spur-of-the-moment decision because it was an emergency. I just had to get her straight to hospital," he has said.

Katy had several seizures on the way to hospital. Ducie called 999 twice during the journey: one of the calls was recorded at 10.06am, but he also made several other calls, including one to Memery. He later claimed that Ducie wanted to know "what was in the cocaine".

Ducie and Corcoran arrived at Our Lady's Hospital in Navan at 10.12am. Katy never emerged from the coma. She died four days later in the arms of her sister, Jill, and alongside her parents, Janet and John. A post-mortem found that she died of irreversible brain damage.

After Katy's death, Ducie courted the media. He claimed he was being made a scapegoat to gardai. He contributed to a book called The Last Days of Katy French. He denounced drug use and insisted that there were no drugs in his house that night. He leaked his text messages with Katy in the same week her family were to hold a memorial.

He was silenced when in September 2010 – along with Corcoran – he was charged after a three-year investigation, which precluded him from giving any more interviews.

Sunday Independent

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