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Emotions high as husband somehow finds strength to thank the jury

AFTER it was all over, the solitary figure of Praveen Halappanavar stood at the taxi rank on Eyre Square, breaking off a conversation with his legal team as strangers crossed the street to hug him and offer words of comfort.

The inquest was over, the verdict delivered, but a strange sense of hollowness and true sorrow persisted.

Somebody has to be held accountable, Praveen insisted as camera shutters clattered. He is not satisfied that he has the answers as to why Savita died and he feels a responsibility to her parents to get them.

If everything had followed normal circumstances, Praveen and Savita would have been celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary yesterday and probably holidaying somewhere pleasant.

Savita had also hoped to be pregnant again by this point.

But, these dreams in tatters, Praveen sat motionless in court awaiting the jury's verdict.

The voice of Coroner Ciaran MacLoughlin quivered with sudden emotion as he reached the point in his summation where Savita had been "in peril of her life."

Having heard the case in the stops and starts of individual statements, it was startling to hear it in a flowing narrative, and the sheer vulnerability of this young woman, helpless in her hospital bed, stood out pitifully.

The coroner told the jury that they could return a choice of two verdicts – a narrative verdict which was a statement of fact or misadventure – but added that it was important that there was no inference of liability.

It was a point to which an Declan Buckley, barrister for the HSE, returned. He wanted the coroner to clarify again to the jury that if they found there had been systematic failure in Savita's care, that these could not be said to have contributed to her death.

Eventually, with the coroner's nine recommendations that will endeavour to ensure that such a death as Savita's can never occur again, the jury retired.

Having deliberated for two hours and 43 minutes precisely, they came back at 3.10pm.

Praveen fixed his shirt and clenched his fist in sudden anxiety. They had a verdict, declared the elderly foreman with the gentlemanly air as the coroner read the charge sheet and handed it back with a satisfied nod.

Praveen did not move, but his lips worked repeatedly as he heard that they had found a verdict of medical misadventure and that they "strongly endorsed" the coroner's nine recommendations.

Looking down to hide his emotion, he wiped his eyes discreetly before Dr MacLoughlin formally offered his condolences.

He nodded in gratitude when the jury expressed their condolences, but when the barrister of the HSE and for consultant Katherine Astbury added theirs, he refused to look.

All over, Praveen he went over to the jury foreman.

"Thanks a million, I appreciate that," he said simply.

Irish Independent