'For Dean's sake we will, for one day we can' . . . then she walked down the courtroom and wept
As family wrangled over funeral arrangements, his partner vowed they would set differences aside in his memory, says Liam Collins
Pale-faced, she sat in Court No 4 as the lawyers discussed who should get the body of Dean Fitzpatrick, 23, her partner and the father of her child.
Occasionally wiping a tear from her eye, Sarah O'Rourke, 28, dressed in a pale denim jacket, a dark, floral-print skirt and black leggings, seemed almost superfluous to the proceedings, until the President of the High Court, faced with a Solomon-like judgement, turned to Dean's lover for a solution to a dispute that seemed to defy settlement.
Hours of discussion between representatives of Dean's estranged parents Christopher Fitzpatrick and Audrey had failed to resolve the issue of who the body should be released to by Dublin City Coroner Brian Farrell.
Dean was knifed the previous Saturday in the Northern Cross apartments on the Malahide Road and died on the footpath outside. His wife's partner Dave Mahon "stabbed" him, the High Court was told, but has not been charged with any crime.
The matter ended up in the High Court on Friday afternoon when Dean's father and his son's partner Sarah brought a legal challenge to Dean's body being released to his mother, Audrey, who originally planned to bury him in the same plot in Fingal Cemetery where her mother, Dean's granny, was buried nine months ago.
As barrister Daithi MacCarthaigh, acting for Dean's father and his 'common law' wife, rushed through an affidavit setting out the circumstances, we learnt a little about the troubled life of a boy who grew to manhood in the shadow of his sister Amy's mysterious disappearance while living in Spain with his mother and her boyfriend, Mr Mahon.
After his 18th birthday, in March 2008, it appears Dean, free to decide where he wanted to live, returned to Dublin and first moved in with his father. He met Sarah O'Rourke, who was living in the same apartment block, and they began a relationship. He moved in with Sarah and in 2010 they moved to Ashton in Swords, where their son was born.
"It was a steady relationship, but Dean suffered with depression and there were incidents of self-harm," said barrister Daithi MacCarthaigh, setting out the case. "But they had the same relationship as that between man and wife, which gives her priority above his parents."
Sitting behind Sarah, who was accompanied to court by Christopher Fitzpatrick and Dean's aunt Chrissie Kenny, was Dean's mother. Wearing denim jeans, a brown leather jacket over a puce top, and brown, knee-length boots, Audrey Fitzpatrick sat with her brother, neither speaking nor showing emotion as the lawyers discussed who should get her son's body.
Her solicitor, Michael Staines, said it was "a very difficult matter" but they did not accept that Dean lived "exclusively" with his father. For a time, he lived with his grandmother and, according to Mr Staines, his mother was given sole custody of him when his father and mother separated in 2002.
The estranged couple had now decided, the court was told, that Dean would be buried in a plot in Fingal Cemetery, but the issue of who his body would be released to could not be settled.
The President of the High Court, Nicholas Kearns, asked about Ms O'Rourke's standing in the case – and when he queried where she was, she shyly put her hand up from the public benches.
He asked her to come to the witness box, where the judge sympathised with her and both of Dean's parents. He then asked her if she would be able to make the funeral arrangements.
"For Dean's sake we will, for one day we can," she answered in a hushed voice. She then walked down the courtroom and wept in the arms of Dean's aunt Chrissie.
The Dublin City Coroner told Judge Kearns that he would facilitate the undertakers, Jennings, in any way he could. The removal of Dean's body will take place to the Church of the Holy Trinity in Donaghmede at 5.30pm tomorrow with the funeral to Fingal cemetery after 10am Mass.