Wednesday 20 September 2017

Father who pushed son to his death too ill for inquest

Second hearing opens into killing of boy in hotel balcony plunge

Rod Minchin

A MAN who killed his six-year-old son when he pushed him off a hotel balcony in Crete five years ago was too ill to attend an inquest yesterday.

John Hogan is receiving treatment under the Mental Heath Act at a psychiatric unit, a coroner was told.

Hogan, his three brothers and his sister grew up in England. But his father, John Joseph, was from Kilcoltrim, Borris, Co Carlow, and his mother, Josephine Whelan is from Castledermot, Co Kildare. The couple settled in Bristol.

The inquest is being held into the death of his son Liam, who suffered severe head injuries after falling from the Petra Mare Hotel in August 2006.

Liam's sister, Mia, then aged two, survived with a broken arm after they were pushed off the balcony by their father during a family holiday.

The inquest at Avon Coroner's Court in Flax Bourton, near Bristol, is being held after the original verdict recorded in 2008 -- that Liam was unlawfully killed by his father -- was overturned by the High Court.

Two judges ruled that the verdict by then Avon coroner Paul Forrest was flawed and needed "further consideration".

They indicated that a "really quite serious error of law" had occurred because the question of Mr Hogan's mental state "was simply not addressed".


The Greek jury in Hogan's trial decided that the former tiler had been suffering from an "earthquake of insanity" during the trip to Crete.

Hogan, from Bradley Stoke, near Bristol, had gone on holiday with then wife Natasha Visser in a bid to salvage their marriage. The incident happened shortly before they were due to return home. Mrs Visser, who has remarried and moved to Australia with her family, did not attend the new inquest.

At yesterday's hearing much of the evidence was either the rereading of statements read at the original inquest, or transcripts of witnesses' evidence from those proceedings.

A transcript was read to the court of the evidence Mrs Visser gave the first inquest. In it she described the rows she had with her ex-husband on the day of the tragedy.

She said Hogan had threatened to "burn their house" to the ground.

Later that evening, Mrs Visser claimed her ex-husband had grown increasingly agitated about their proposed divorce.

She said: "He said he was not living with his mum and he wouldn't go there and he wasn't leaving the house.

"He was saying I should go and that if I stayed in the house with the children, he would burn it to the ground."

Mrs Visser explained how Liam was upset by the rows but told her, "If you and Dad want to split up -- that's OK".

She went on to explain the moments before her son's death. Mrs Visser said she returned to their hotel room to find that her ex-husband had already packed their suitcases because he wanted to return home on the next flight.

"They wouldn't even close. There were clothes sticking out from everywhere and they weren't done up or anything," she said.


"I started opening the cases trying to sort the clothes out, so that they would fit in the case. John said 'What the f*** are you doing?'

"He then stared at me with a 'crazed' look that I have never seen. I was aware he was charging around the room.

"All I could hear was 'John's packing is s***, John's packing is s***'. Then I turned around and no one was there. I just heard a lady screaming down below -- Oh God'.

"And I knew he had gone over with them. Liam had been crying and crying and crying and then it went silent, apart from the lady down below."

Psychiatric reports compiled on Hogan by doctors in Greece were also read to the court.

The reports said Mr Hogan made various attempts to take his own life while he was held at a Greek psychiatric unit following the incident.

The reports also said Mr Hogan's family history was tainted by suicide and depression, which Hogan said prompted his wife to call them a "family of death" moments before he leapt from the hotel balcony.

His older brother Paul was a manic depressive who had been sectioned in a mental hospital on a number of occasions. Hogan himself had been dogged by clinical depression since childhood but had stopped taking anti-depressants at the time of Liam's death.

The inquest was adjourned until today.

Irish Independent

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