Saturday 18 November 2017

Widow has 'no recollection' of nine hours before she discovered naked husband injured on stairs - inquest hears

James Goonan (inset) died at home on Hawthorn Drive, Crinkle, Birr, Co Offaly (Picture: Google Maps)
James Goonan (inset) died at home on Hawthorn Drive, Crinkle, Birr, Co Offaly (Picture: Google Maps)

Eoghan MacConnell

A widow has no recollection of the nine hours before she found her naked husband lying with a head wound on the stairs of the family home.

Phyllis Goonan was giving evidence in the inquest of her late husband James Goonan (51) who died at home on Hawthorn Drive, Crinkle, Birr, Co Offaly, in March 2002.

Mrs Goonan was speaking on the second day of the inquest which Offaly Coroner Brian Mahon believes is "one of the longest-running inquests in the State".

State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy gave evidence on the opening day of the inquest.

She carried out a post mortem following the death and concluded that Mr Goonan had died from a haemorrhage and shock as a result of a laceration to the head.

Dr Cassidy also cited evidence of a previous heart attack and acute alcohol intoxication as contributory factors.

Inspector John Lawless read out Phyllis Goonan's deposition at the inquest on Tuesday.

In it, she stated that herself and James had gone for a drink and meal in Dooly's Hotel in Birr on March 10.

After the meal, Mr Goonan bought a bottle of whiskey and some cans and they went home at around 3pm. They were later joined by Mr Goonan's mother Sheila and they all played cards until Sheila left at around 5 or 6pm.

At around 3am she went to go to bed and found her husband lying on the stairs.

Mrs Goonan says she then covered him with a duvet and lay down beside him to sleep.

At around 6.30am, she recalled, "I put my hand on Jim's mouth and noticed he wasn't breathing."

Mr Mahon asked Mrs Goonan what happened after her mother-in-law left.

"I presume I was asleep until around 3 o'clock when I went to go to bed and found his body," she remarked.

"I thought he was just drunk, I didn't know".

When asked if she appreciated the seriousness of Mr Goonan's condition at the time, she replied, "no, because I was very drunk too".

Counsel for Mr Goonan's brother Cyril, Johnnie McCoy B.L., told Mrs Goonan that Dr Cassidy had suggested her husband might have survived had he received timely medical treatment.

Mrs Goonan has denied telling Sgt John Gibbons, who visited the house that morning, that her husband had fallen against a fireplace.

She also struggled to recall being interviewed by two uniformed Garda members on the morning of March 11.

Mrs Goonan recalled her brother taking her to hospital in Tullamore later that day to have a cast on her leg tended to.

She said she was later transferred to hospital in Portlaoise.

Earlier on Tuesday, forensic scientist Dr Jennifer Ryan recalled viewing a number of photos of bloodstains taken upstairs at the house by Cyril Goonan.

Using information from the State Pathologist's report and the photographs she interpreted the scene.

Dr Ryan said a likely possible scenario was that Mr Goonan fell and hit his head on a bedside locker before slipping down beside the locker. She believes he may have made contact with the bed clothes and pillow, before deciding to move downstairs, where he later collapsed on the stairs.

Retired Sgt John Gibbons gave evidence of attending at Hawthorn Drive on March 11.

He saw James Goonan undressed and face down on the stairs with the lower part of his body covered by a duvet.

Although Phyllis appeared to be "affected by alcohol", Sgt Gibbons said "she stated that he (James) must have hit his head off the fireplace".

She had blood on her clothes, glasses and under her finger nails, he added.

Mrs Goonan is due to resume giving evidence at the inquest today.

Irish Independent

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