Girlfriend's horror at Valentine's hotel death
A man on a romantic Valentine’s break with his girlfriend plunged to his death after the couple couldn’t get back into their locked hotel which was staffed by just a cleaner, an inquest has heard.
Cathal Reilly (28) from Oldcastle, Co Meath, suffered a brain haemorrhage and a fractured skull when he fell 22-ft to his death as he tried to find another entrance to the Sligo City Hotel last February.
An inquest into his death at Sligo court house yesterday heard conflicting evidence over how the couple came to be locked out of the hotel - a converted office block - at 1.20am on February 13 last year.
Sinead Clinton, (22), told coroner Eamon McGowan how she and Mr Reilly had originally planned a romantic break in Galway but had decided to go to Sligo instead.
On the second night of their stay they had enjoyed a meal together before going for drinks at Fiddlers’ Bar in the town.
However when they returned to the hotel after 1.15am the front door was locked.
“There was nobody at reception,” said Ms Clinton weeping in the witness box.
“The door was locked and we had our room key with us but we had no key to get in.”
She said the couple rang a bell and knocked on the door for around five minutes on what was a bitterly cold night.
They had decided not to ring the hotel because they could see through the window that no-one was on reception.
Mr Reilly, she said, told her to wait at the front while he went around the back of the hotel to see if he could find another way in.
The victim climbed over a 7-ft gate and went down an alleyway to a small way which he jumped over, not realising there was a 22-ft drop below.
When Lidia Pesla, a Polish cleaner, opened the front door, Ms Clinton said she asked her to wait while she went to find her boyfriend.
She climbed over the same fence and went down the unlit alleyway to look for him.
“I called out to Cathal to see if he was coming and and I got no reply and I kept walking forward. I climbed on top of it (the wall) and jumped off it,” she said.
“I thought it was going to be the same level as the ground I was on but it was a big drop. I landed on my feet and then fell on my knees. I looked up and saw how far I had fallen and felt sick. I also had an awful pain going up my leg.”
Miss Clinton said it was very dark and soon realised her boyfriend could be nearby.
“I couldn’t see anything so felt around for him and I could feel his leg then,” she said.
“It took me a minute or two for my eyes to adjust to the light and then I could see his face. His eyes were closed and he wouldn’t answer me when I spoke to him.”
She said she found two doors at the rear of the hotel and began banging on them and screaming for help.
After five minutes Ms Pesla came to the door, she said, and insisted on ringing her manager Trevor Canning instead of an ambulance.
A statement from Ms Pesla, who has returned to Poland, was read to the court.
In it she said she was a cleaner and not a night porter and felt uncomfortable having to perform both sets of duties.
“Despite the fact that nobody told me my duties I knew I was expected and felt forced to do the duties of the night porter,” she said.
“I knew I was would have to go upstairs to clean the rooms and was expected to go back downstairs to let people back into the hotel when they returned. I was the only member of staff in the hotel that night.”
She said wasn’t told how many guests were staying or who might have been out of the hotel for the evening.
Ms Pesla said she had opened the front door to Ms Clinton but when she had gone to look for her boyfriend she waited a few minutes before closing the door again.
A few minutes after checking the front door again she heard screaming at the back of the hotel and found Ms Clinton there in a distressed state.
“This was the girl who had been at the front door earlier. She was screaming and crying,” said the hotel cleaner.
She called manager Trevor Canning who arrived from his home nearby five minutes later and an ambulance was called.
He said he performed CPR on Mr Reilly for five to ten minutes adding: “I presumed he was dead already.”
Asked by Mr McGowan why he referred to Ms Pesla as the night porter in his statement, Mr Canning said that on nights when there weren’t many guests she was instructed to act as both a night porter and a cleaner.
Dr Clive Kilgallen said Mr Reilly had died as a result of brain haemorrhage caused by a fractured skull.
Coroner Eamon MacGowan recorded a narrative verdict in the case, ruling that Mr Reilly had died as a result of a fall on hotel premises.
He also asked that the alleyway where Mr Reilly died should be fitted with lights and the 1.2metre wall from which the Meath man fell to his death should be raised to a height where it could not be climbed over.