Family fears for Pat Hickey's mental and physical health in Bangu 10 jail
When Sylviane Hickey phoned her children in Dublin from Rio to break the news of her husband's arrest, she told them it was all a "misunderstanding". Her children had by then already heard the news that their father, Pat Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), was in hospital following a dawn raid by police investigating the alleged illegal sale of Olympic tickets.
According to Anne Marie James, a solicitor acting for Pat Hickey's family, the development was so shocking and unexpected that Sylviane struggled to comprehend it. "Sylviane said 'don't do anything, don't get lawyers, you don't need lawyers - this is a huge misunderstanding'," said Ms James.
"She was in a highly agitated state . . . saying he doesn't need lawyers. This is a major misunderstanding and he is going to be out in a day or two and the OCI are dealing with it, and that's it. So they had to sit on their hands for a few days. It wasn't until Sylviane came home that they realised the enormity of what was going on."
Brazilian police have said they suspected Mr Hickey had tried to hide from them when they knocked at his hotel room at 6am on August 17. They claimed that Sylviane told them he had gone back to Ireland. According to Ms James, this is not correct. She said Pat Hickey's son Fred and his wife had been in Rio with his parents. "They were in an adjoining room with Pat. I understand from Fred that Pat suffers from insomnia, that he keeps Sylviane awake, and that even though it's nobody's business, he snores when he does go to sleep. He went into Fred's vacated room, and that's where he was. It wasn't that he was hiding or anything. That's quite a normal thing," she said.
When Sylviane opened the door, she was disoriented and confused.
Sylviane has not seen or spoken to her husband since he was jailed. She was told it will take 30 days to get to see him. She returned home "early last week" at her husband's insistence.
"They are very together. When they are back here they are a very low-key couple. They are very private, they mind their grandchildren two days a week, after which his daughter Corinna says they are absolutely wrecked. They are very private and he is very much a family man. They are very much together as a couple," she said. "I think she is all the time with him, and supports him. I suppose it helps him to have her there. I know she is absolutely devastated."
Pat Hickey, one of Ireland's most senior sporting figures, has been in Bangu 10 prison in Rio for 10 days, one of two Irish men arrested in connection with the Brazilian police investigation into ticket touting. The second man, Kevin Mallon, who was arrested in Rio for alleged ticket touting on August 5, was due to be released on bail yesterday after spending three weeks in jail. The Hickey family welcomed the news of Mr Mallon's planned release, describing it as a positive step.
Mr Hickey's lawyers in Brazil are awaiting a decision on a second bail application to get him out of jail. The Olympic Council of Ireland, which has an insurance policy to cover his legal fees, has rented an apartment in Rio. If he is bailed, Mr Hickey will stay there under house arrest until the authorities decide what to do with him. He has yet to be formally charged, according to Ms James. His family still doesn't know if he will face trial or not over the ticket touting allegations. Mr Hickey vehemently denied the allegations, and has asked the OCI to release "documentation" to his defence lawyers that he believes will exonerate him.
Meanwhile, Mr Hickey's family are growing increasingly worried about his physical and mental health. The Irish consul in Brazil visited him twice in the days after his arrest, when he seemed in reasonable spirits.
"They have reported to Fred that he was well, that he was taking his medication. I think he had asked for books, paper and pens. They felt at that time he was in a good mental place," she said. By last Thursday, he had deteriorated, according to Ms James, who sat in a on a video conference between his Irish lawyers and his Rio lawyers. She spoke to the Sunday Independent to counter what she called the "hatefest".