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Explosive tell-all to reveal Katy's tragic final moments

AS the second anniversary of the death of the model Katy French approaches this Christmas, Merlin Publishers are preparing to put a book on the shelves that promises to chronicle her final days.

It will reveal, according to the blurb, the full and exclusive story of the tragic events that led to her untimely death on December 6, 2007. The book's publication has been denounced as callous by her friends, and a cynical attempt to cash in on the memory of the model, who even in her death continues to generate headlines.

But if it delivers the full story, as billed, the book should at least be welcomed by gardai, who are still trying to establish the truth of what happened to her on that fateful night two years ago.

Inquiries so far have led to the arrests of four people. Three were released without charge, including Kieron Ducie, who works in the family trucking business in Meath and in whose house Katy collapsed into the fatal coma brought on by suspected cocaine use, and his former girlfriend, Ann Corcoran. A fourth -- a 24-year-old man -- is due to stand trial next month on drug charges. He is accused of conspiring with others to supply cocaine on the same date that Katy collapsed.

The case is not closed. Hefty investigation files are still on the Director of Public Prosecutions' desk. Other charges could follow.

Despite the sensitivity of the investigation, not to mention the grief caused to Katy's family, Kieron Ducie is understood to be an important contributor to the book, The Last Days Of Katy French. The author, Jason O'Toole, had already interviewed him at length for Hot Press magazine last year, as have several tabloid journalists to whom Ducie has spewed his version of events in varying degrees of lurid detail.

His account is unlikely to waver from the version he has given in the past, in which he denounced drug use, insisted there was none in his house that night and rubbished rumours that he delayed taking Katy to hospital so that he could do a clean-up.

Saturday, December 1, 2007, marked the end of an emotional week that crowned a trail-blazing year for Katy French.

The model, who had just turned 24, had celebrated her birthday two nights earlier in Krystle Nightclub with a glamorous bash that doubled as a media event. Publicity, after all, was the fuel for her career. She invited a host of journalists, including some she had never met, and various celebrities to celebrate with her family and friends. Photographs of her in a thigh-skimming, gold dress appeared in most of the papers the following day.

She partied until 6am back at the Westbury Hotel and took a cab back to her apartment in Citywest. That afternoon, she did an interview with Brendan O'Connor, the editor of Life magazine, who had been at her party the night before. Having dropped O'Connor home, she stayed in that night.

The next morning, she went to Dundrum Shopping Centre to film a pilot for a new TV fashion show with Andrea Roche, a model and Miss Ireland organiser, who said she was in good spirits.

She was optimistic and looking forward to the future, Ms Roche said at the time.

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Katy made no secret to friends that she was hurt by a newspaper feature on her birthday party that cattily reported how none of her close friends showed up and that celebrity guests had never even met her.

On Saturday night, she ate dinner with her mother, Janet, and her sister, Jill, at the family home in Stillorgan.

They watched Tubridy Tonight, and Katy texted several friends to see if any were up for drink. They weren't.

Throughout Saturday night, she exchanged a series of text messages and phone calls with Kieron Ducie, which later proved crucial in allowing gardai to retrace her movements.

Kieron Ducie disclosed some of those text messages to a tabloid newspaper last year.

The first text was from Katy to Ducie: 'Where are you? I need to talk to you.'

'I'm in Cocoon with friends. Is everything OK?' he replied.

Katy texted back: 'I need to talk to somebody, where's Ann?'

Ducie responded: 'Ann is at home she's not well . . . She's in bed.'

Katy: 'Can I call over?'

Ducie: 'Sure, I'll ring Ann now and tell her. Are you upset?'

At 11pm, Katy told her mother she was dropping in on a friend and sat into the €100,000 black Range Rover -- on loan from a car dealer, Lee Cullen, after her own car broke down -- and set off for Meath. On the way, Katy continued her contact with Ducie and Ann Corcoran. At 12.25am, she pulled into a garage forecourt in Clonee, where it is suspected she bought cocaine from a dealer.

She arrived at Kieron Ducie's house at Lambertstown Manor, a small private estate in Kilmessan, at 1.30am. Katy wasn't sure where exactly the house was. Ann Corcoran left the house to guide her in from the main entrance to the estate.

Ducie was not home. He went to Lillies Bordello after Cocoon.

Ann Corcoran later told gardai that she and Katy drank three bottles of champagne over several hours while they talked.

Another of Ducie's leaked texts show that at 3.05am, Ann sent him a message saying: 'We are having a girlie chat. It's grand. We're having a few drinks.'

Another followed at 5.15am: 'Where are you? Are you coming home? Katy is very upset?'

Ducie replied: 'I'm leaving now, heading home. Is everything OK?'

By Ducie's account, he got home at around 6.00am. He joined Ann and Katy. He told gardai that they sat up chatting and drinking for another hour and a half.

In one of his many subsequent tabloid interviews, he said: "She was upset about a lot of her friends and colleagues who had not turned up to her birthday party and other things. I had never seen her as sad as that.

"She was very low, very fragile and very vulnerable."

Asked if he had any reason to believe she was unwell, he said: "No. She never said anything. She went to bed in the back room. She wanted to drive home and she had a lot to drink so I took the keys off her."

He continued: "She looked drunk and was upset because she had a good few drinks, a couple of bottles of champagne, but she didnt look unwell."

Katy went to bed in the spare room.

Ducie told gardai that after Katy went to bed, he sat up with his girlfriend for another 15 minutes. Then they heard a noise, like a thud, coming from the spare bedroom where Katy slept.

They found Katy on the floor, in apparent convulsions.

Ducie later gave more lurid details to Hot Press: "I grabbed her off the floor and lifted her on to the bed. Her body was just shooting. Her arms were just shooting back and forwards."

Gardai suspected that the time was close to 8.30am. The nearest hospital was 13km away in Navan, a 25-minute drive.

Ducie told the Mirror that it was 9.30am when he heard her fall out bed.

That was why he did not have time to call an ambulance.

"The minute I saw Katy was ill, I knew the time frame for an ambulance to get to my house was around 20 minutes. So it was a spur-of-the moment decision because it was an emergency. I just had to get her straight to hospital," he said.

He carried Katy to his jeep and laid her along the back seat. Ann Corcoran sat in front. On the way, Katy had a number of seizures, indicating that her condition has seriously deteriorated.

"Her eyes were bulging. She was foaming around the mouth. I was just horrified. I nearly crashed the jeep a couple of times on the back roads as I drove Katy to hospital. Crazy driving," he said.

He called 999 twice during the journey: one of the calls was recorded at 10.06am, but he also made several other calls to friends.

They arrived at Our Lady's Hospital in Navan at 10.12am.

The scene was pandemonium. Ducie described how he burst through the doors of the hospital carrying Katy in his arms, shouting for help, and sending medical equipment flying as he laid her on a bed.

"I carried her in the door myself. There was nobody ready for her or emergency services at the door so I took her in. I knocked over trays of surgical equipment and put her on the table myself," Ducie later said.

Perhaps if she had been in an ambulance, emergency medics could have intervened earlier to try and revive her. As it was, she had already lapsed into a coma by the time she arrived at the hospital's accident and emergency department. Her body was shutting down.

Hospital staff later told gardai how on the morning she was admitted, Ducie was asked whether she had taken anything. When an otherwise healthy young girl arrives in accident and emergency in a state of collapse, drugs top the list of possible causes.

Ducie told the staff that she had not taken anything.

A swab taken from her skin shortly after she arrived in hospital found traces of cocaine. The post-mortem also confirmed the presence of cocaine in her system, although not in sufficient quantity to constitute an overdose, said a source. But it doesn't take an overdose to trigger the fatal reaction to the drug. The only other drugs in her system were traces of medication prescribed for a recent kidney infection.

Tests also found that the alcohol levels in Katy's system were low, even though gardai were told that she had got through a couple of bottles of champagne and was drunk.

When asked last year if there was a delay in bringing Katy to hospital, Ducie said: "There were accusations in some newspapers that there was a drugs party and clean-ups and all this rubbish that were completely untrue. I even offered to take a blood test the following day to prove I had not been taking drugs."

Katy never emerged from the coma. She died four days later in the arms of her sister, Jill, and alongside her parents, Janet and John. A post-mortem found that she died of irreversible brain damage.

Katy's death undeniably resonated with the public.

Michael O'Doherty, a friend and publisher who featured Katy many times in his society magazines, said people were simply shocked that someone so pretty and so young could die in such circumstances.

"She had become well known in the six months leading up to her death. She was in the public eye and it is rare for someone who is in the public eye so frequently at such a young age to suddenly drop dead. It is amazing. It touched a nerve because she was so pretty and I think people always imagine drugs as being sordid and a problem that didn't happen in their own back yard," he said. "Nobody is shocked when there is a crime-related drug death. To see somebody so beautiful and young, and apparently so happy, to die from an alleged drug overdose, I think really did resonate."

Many commentators have questioned the extent of media coverage allocated to Katy's death, a celebrity famous for being famous. Her mother acknowledged this in speaking at her daughter's funeral in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.

Janet French told hundreds of mourners that she had heard the question asked: "Who is Katy French?"

She said she wanted to answer it. Katy brought her smile and sparkle with her and was somebody who readily gave forgiveness. Through the model's charity work with GOAL, her mother said, Katy had learned the difference she could make. "Life with Katy was about loving it, embracing it and giving it socks -- it is the reason why we felt that the only way to dress today was brightly," she said.

Katy always said she had a great childhood growing up in Wicklow with her sister, Jill, and parents, Janet and John. She went to the exclusive girls' school, Alexandra College, and, afterwards, studied psychology and marketing for two years before joining Assets Model Agency.

By her own admission, she was a promotions model who wouldn't make it on the international catwalks. After all, she had boobs and an arse, she once said. But she was a grafter. She worked hard to earn a modest living from the promotional shoots and catalogue fare that dominate the Irish model industry, until she got her break in 2007.

Her career took off on a cold January day when she posed in red satin knickers, stockings and a bustier in her fiance Marcus Sweeney's restaurant, Number 10, on South William Street, Dublin. The shoot was for the Sunday Independent. When Marcus Sweeney stormed in he was furious to find her scantily clad all over his dining table. The photographer and stylist witnessed him demanding his €50,000 ring back and ordering her out of their apartment in Citywest.

He sent her a string of abusive text messages that made the front page and generated acres of tabloid coverage. The story was strung out into an ongoing soap opera, with Katy as a willing participant, and her profile soared.

She hurtled through the rest of that year, making the most of the unpleasant split from her fiance that catapulted her into the public eye. She grasped every opportunity that came her way and engineered several others.

She staged provocative photo shoots, such as pretending to buy a fur jacket. and gave her money's worth to interviewers with mouthy opinions on everything from sex toys to abortion.

The more exposure she got, the greater her success. She went on the Late Late Show with Pat Kenny and performed a neat stunt in gamely lying in a glass case with snakes. After the show, one observer was amused to see the usually-female autograph hunters who surrounded Pat Kenny make a bee-line for the pretty girl who had proved herself such a good sport. Other television gigs followed. She was invited on the cult show Podge & Rodge and was on the fund-raising reality TV show, Celebrities Go Wild on RTE, courting more publicity when she claimed she would bring her vibrator with her. She appeared on Tubridy Tonight a week before she died, talking about her work.

She was known for deliberately courting the media and there were plenty who found her antics objectionable. Several internet websites were devoted to knocking her. When she went to Calcutta in India with the aid organisation GOAL, Claire Byrne, the Newstalk presenter, bemoaned her promotion by the media as a spokesperson for a generation. Katy dished it back in spades the following week, taunting her to pick on someone her own IQ size.

By then, Katy was living between her family home in Stillorgan and an apartment in Citywest. The vast complex was built by the business tycoon Jim Mansfield, who made his fortune buying earth movers from the British after the Falklands war, which he sold in America for a huge profit.

Her close friends included Andrea Roche, who is married to PJ, Jim Mansfield's younger son. Through Andrea, Katy met Jimmy Mansfield, PJ's older brother, who is also involved in the family business. She had an on/off relationship with him for 10 months. According to sources, that relationship was preying on her mind again on the day before she collapsed.

Weeks before she died, Katy gave an interview to Hot Press in which she said she had never taken drugs. She changed her story a few days later in the Star on Sunday, saying she hadn't done drugs since she was 19.

"I first tried it when I was 19 and soon realised that it was very much part of the Dublin social scene," she said. "Cocaine is everywhere but I just wanted to say that it's not cool, it's not attractive. I am speaking out because I feel we need to be more honest with ourselves, stop living in denial and take responsibility. When you are doing coke the highs are great, but the lows are very, very low."

The garda investigation that followed Katy's death resulted in unprecedented scrutiny of drug use among a certain Dublin social set, although the focus of detectives was on determining Katy's state of mind in the days before her collapse and to find out what drugs she had taken and who gave them to her.

Her mobile phone records were scoured to find out who she had contacted in the days before her collapse. Almost everyone who had spoken to her in the days before she collapsed was contacted. More than 100 people were interviewed, and statements were taken from about 80 people. They included a slew of models, socialites and millionaires, along with a few shady hangers on. The tabloids had a field day.

Jimmy Mansfield -- who was in Spain the week that Katy collapsed -- was outed as her secret lover. His only comment was that she was a lovely, intelligent, bright and beautiful girl and she was sorely missed.

Andrea Roche broke down in tears on the Gerry Ryan radio show, telling of vicious poison pen letters circulated to the media, making outlandish allegations about her. Katy's family has made 26 complaints to the Press Council over the press coverage of their daughter's death and the subsequent investigation.

In February last year, Kieron Ducie was arrested and questioned, along with Ann Corcoran and two others.

A few weeks after his arrest, he gave his first interview to the Sunday Tribune, in which he claimed that gardai were trying to make a scapegoat of him. "The gardai are looking for a scapegoat, and I'm it," he said. "I wasn't even in the house that night and I'm still being painted as the villain."

He continued: "I want my name cleared. The wheels are in motion and I will be taking defamation actions against four newspapers.

"They tried to stitch me up. Newspapers have been offering me huge amounts of money to talk but I have refused. I have copies of abusive text messages sent to me by one reporter," he said.

Many other newspaper interviews followed in what he said was an attempt to clear his name. He complained that the gardai had botched the investigation. He said he had turned down an offer of €100,000 from one newspaper to sell his story. They also reeked of a man out to milk his association with the beautiful model.

As Katy's first anniversary approached in December last year, her mother, Janet, planned a special memorial for her daughter. She issued invitations in November to close friends and family, inviting them to pay tribute to her daughter, either in a special message, a memory they wished to share, or a song.

"It would be a great comfort to us and the rest of Katy's family if you were there with us to remember the wonderful, though short, times that Katy spent with us here on earth," she said.

Ducie chose the same week to release his exchange of text messages with Katy on the night she collapsed in his house. They cast Katy as troubled and worried by her characterisation in the press, and Ducie as the man she turned to for reassurance in her hour of need.

The tables were turned on Ducie when the text messages he sent to journalists offering stories on Katy were leaked to Barry Egan, of the Sunday Independent, late last year.

The catalogue of his bizarre messages exposed his tawdry publicity campaign for what it was: an attempt to use Katy's memory and his dubious connection with her to settle scores and generate publicity for himself.

The day after the Mirror ran an exclusive with the final text messages that reveal torment before her death, Ducie texted the journalist: 'U have put the sh*ts up a lot of models 2day. They are all running scared. They think u have their numbers and texts to Katy. Let the mind games begin.'

Another text message read: 'Journalists outside my house at 7.30 this morning in force.'

He complained about the picture that accompanied one of his planted stories: 'Jesus, no more of that horrible pic of me again. Text me your email address so I'll mail pics now.'

A text to another journalist read: 'I'm ringing and texting u all week. No return calls. I gave them a quote on Monday and they built a story around it with all my previous interviews with Sun. We've a signed agreement on an agreed date by me to give you the green light to go to print on my interview. Same applies to the Star Sunday. Eoin asked the same just there. If you don't answer my calls what can I do? Ring me 4 a chat. I have a brill story. If you don't want it, I'll give to Star for Saturday. Ring me!'

When the Star broke the agreement, Ducie sent a text: 'I'm f**king furious. I've just heard about the Star. They're after running the story without permission. I have the same agreement in writing, I'm going to sue the f**k out of them. I can't believe all this bulls**t.'

It is little wonder that Katy's family and friends are said to await with dread and horror Kieron Ducie's contribution to a book that sets out to chronicle her final days. Her family and her close friends have decided they will be making no comment on it.

Michael O'Doherty explained: "A year ago, her family had a memorial service and everybody who went to it who were her real friends and, believe you me, none of the sources of the book were at the memorial service a year ago.

"I think everybody who knew her felt there was a line drawn under the whole thing," he said.

"It was a year after her death and I think really everybody thought enough is enough. This book is a callous attempt to make money. This is just a money-making venture by hangers on, friends, people who claim to be friends and who exaggerate their friendship with Katy massively because she isn't around to contradict them.

"Even if he claims he is not getting money from it, he is getting profile from it which for some bizarre reason he wants."

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