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Children spent night with mother’s body in homeless shelter after she overdosed


Anne Marie Connors' sister Barbara Connors and mother Carol Connors

Anne Marie Connors' sister Barbara Connors and mother Carol Connors

Anne Marie Connors' sister Barbara Connors and mother Carol Connors

Two children who spent the night in an apartment with their mother’s body in homeless accommodation initially refused to open the door, an inquest heard.

The younger child told support staff knocking at the door that her mother was “busy sleeping”.

Ann Marie ‘Annie’ Connors (30) was pronounced dead at 7pm on April 18, 2018 following a drug overdose at her apartment at Camberley House, Churchtown, Dublin 14, managed by Sophia Housing.

“I heard her son [11] tell his sister to be quiet. Then the daughter, who is five, said her mam is busy sleeping, that she was lying on the bathroom floor and they couldn’t wake her,” project worker Mary Coleman told Dublin Coroner’s Court.

Ms Coleman and a colleague knocked on the apartment door at around 4pm.

After initially refusing then hesitating, the children eventually opened the door and stepped back. “I saw Ann Marie slumped in a doorway. She was freezing cold,” Ms Coleman said in her statement.

Shift attendant Gerard Morgan took the children to the office.

“Both kids told me they were hungry, so I ordered food for them. They were asking if their mam was OK,” he said.

Dublin Coroner’s Court heard Annie Connors had been on the housing list since 2007.

Speaking after the inquest, the woman’s mother, Carol Connors, said the children were now with living with her.

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“The little girl asked recently to go back to see the bereavement councillor, but John doesn’t talk much, he just puts his hands over his ears,” she said.

Her daughter spent more than a year at Camberley House, where the aim is to move on to permanent housing within six months.

“She was left in Sophia housing more than anyone else. Who was responsible for making the decision that she didn’t get a house?” Carol Connors said.

Her daughter “went downhill rapidly” after changing doctors and beginning new medication in January 2018, Mrs Connors told the inquest.

“I think the medication she was on prescribed by that doctor did not agree with her,” she said.

In the weeks before her death, Mrs Connors became concerned that her daughter was suicidal.

This followed a period of more than 10 years moving between homeless facilities in Blackrock, Clontarf and Churchtown while commuting daily to Sandyford where her son – who has additional needs – attended school.

“You could see that things were getting on top of her,” Mrs Connors said.

Annie Connors had completed a nine-month period in rehab in 2014. She moved to Camberley House in the summer of 2017, where visitors are not allowed.

Two days before her body was found, her mother said “she was overwhelmed by everything”.

“Annie told my other daughter, ‘I can’t do this any more’, the week before she died,” Mrs Connors said.

A post-mortem gave the cause of death as opiate toxicity and a toxicology report found evidence of multiple prescribed drugs including codeine, diazepam, zopiclone and pregabalin present in therapeutic levels.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned an open verdict.

“If the coroner is to record a verdict of suicide, it’s a very high legal test; that she took her own life, that she intended to do so and that it is proven beyond legal doubt. It is very hard to reach that threshold unless someone has written a letter,” the coroner said.

A Tusla social worker in contact with Annie Connors since 2013 said it was her intention to secure a house with a garden for her children to play.

The social worker said Annie Connors was “open and honest” about the challenges of being a single mother in homeless accommodation.

“She described it as a constant stressor for her and that her son’s behaviour was affected.” the social worker said.

“She wanted somewhere secure to provide stability and predictability to her children’s lives… she adored them.”

Chief executive officer of Sophia Housing Tony O’Riordan said the reason for people staying longer than six months in supported housing is the lack of accommodation.

Of the rule against visitors, Mr Riordan said the organisation was mindful of the risk to children posed by visitors.

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