HSE staff 'tried desperately to protect' Melissa
GARDAI and HSE staff made desperate attempts to keep 14-year-old Melissa Mahon in the protective care of the Health Service in the period leading up to her death, her inquest has been told.
Det Supt John O'Reilly, who led the investigation into her killing, said the teenager kept escaping from carers in the period before she was last seen on September 14, 2006.
Ronnie Dunbar – also known as Ronnie McManus – is serving life for the manslaughter of Melissa at his home in Rathbraughan Park, Sligo, following his conviction in 2009.
An inquest into the death began yesterday.
Supt O'Reilly told the coroner, Dr Desmond Moran, that Melissa was put into the emergency care of the HSE at Ballytivnan, Sligo, on August 28, 2006. She went absent but was later discovered by gardai and then sent to a foster home in Kinlough, Co Leitrim.
Shortly after arriving, she ran away from there to a neighbouring house. On the night of September 13-14, she was taken to Manorhamilton garda station, where a care worker looked after her overnight.
She vanished again but just after midday she was spotted by two care workers. She was running towards Rathbraughan Park and they lost sight of her. That was the last time she was seen alive in public.
Supt O'Reilly told the inquest a murder investigation was started after information had been given to gardai when they attended a house in Rathbraughan Park in January 2008.
The investigation found that Dunbar/McManus was directly responsible for Melissa's death in his own home at Rathbraughan Park.
Supt O'Reilly said: "He placed her body in a sleeping bag and tied it with a neck-tie."
The inquest heard that the body was dumped into a river near Dromahair and skeletal remains were later found by garda divers about 850 metres away.
Supt O'Reilly told the inquest that in 2009 McManus/Dunbar was found to have unlawfully killed Melissa by strang- ulation between September 14 and 30, 2006.
He was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for life.
Dr Moran paid tribute to the HSE in its attempted care of Melissa. He said: "Melissa was difficult to deal with but they went to great extents to protect her and keep her in their care. Unfortunately, it was not successful."
A verdict of unlawful killing was returned. Melissa's two sisters and a male friend were at the inquest but declined to make any comment afterwards.