Wednesday 11 December 2019

Tragic student put cyanide in his drink, inquest told

Mr Petitjean was taken to St James's Hospital
Mr Petitjean was taken to St James's Hospital
Francois Petitjean was found collapsed at a hostel

Gareth Naughton

A STUDENT who collapsed suddenly in a backpacker hostel may have taken cyanide that he claimed he got in a college lab, an inquest heard.

Francois Petitjean (23) collapsed at the Times Hostel in Camden Place, Dublin 2, on March 7 last year but died two days later.

Two weeks beforehand, a friend witnessed the student from Neufchateau in Belgium pour a liquid into his drink and he later said it was cyanide, Dublin Coroner's Court heard.

Mr Petitjean was a chemistry student on placement at Dublin Institute of Technology through an exchange programme.

He had been staying at the hostel because he was finding it difficult to source accommodation and the inquest heard that he was feeling down about this. He was also behind on coursework for his Belgian university.

Professor Hugh Byrne, head of DIT's Focas Research Institute, said that Mr Petitjean had no access to cyanide in the lab where he worked and it would have been "impossible" for him to order chemicals on behalf of the college.

Mr Petitjean was found collapsed in the common room of the hostel by his friend Simon Rapilly.

He told the court that two weeks before they had been in Whelan's pub and he saw Mr Petitjean pour a small plastic vial of clear liquid into his drink claiming it was "just vitamins". After taking a sip, Mr Petitjean immediately went outside and was sick.

The following day he told Mr Rapilly that he had taken cyanide and that he had wanted to get drunk because he knew it was his "last night".

On the day of his collapse, Mr Rapilly found Mr Petitjean on the ground in the hostel common room, "stiff" with saliva leaking from his mouth.

He was taken to St James's Hospital. Subsequently, Mr Rapilly recalled the conversation about cyanide, and the hospital was notified.

Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that a medical report from Dr Thomas Ryan, intensive care consultant at St James's Hospital, said that Mr Petitjean's clinical presentation was "consistent with cyanide toxicity".

He was treated with three doses of cyanide antidote and responded well.

However, he did not awaken and brain death was subsequently confirmed.

The report stated that the diagnosis of cyanide toxicity was "confirmed by laboratory testing".

However, Dr Farrell said that there was a conflict in the evidence with pathologist Dr Stephen Finn's report stating that no pre-death test for cyanide was performed.

Dr Farrell adjourned the inquest to June 11 to hear the medical and pathological evidence directly.

Irish Independent

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