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'Four of my friends have now died from drink – I don't want to be the fifth'

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06/05/2013 Peter Baram pictured in Ennis Monday following the death of his friend Josef Pavalka. Photograph by Eamon Ward

06/05/2013 Peter Baram pictured in Ennis Monday following the death of his friend Josef Pavalka. Photograph by Eamon Ward

01/05/2013 Joseph  Pavelka, Czech Republic (right) with his friend and translator Peter Baram outside Ennis Court on Wednesday. Photograph by Eamon Ward (Gordon Deegan is sending story)

01/05/2013 Joseph Pavelka, Czech Republic (right) with his friend and translator Peter Baram outside Ennis Court on Wednesday. Photograph by Eamon Ward (Gordon Deegan is sending story)

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06/05/2013 Peter Baram pictured in Ennis Monday following the death of his friend Josef Pavalka. Photograph by Eamon Ward

THE best friend of the homeless Czech man found dead at the weekend said he was his fourth friend to die from drinking too much alcohol "and I don't want to be the fifth".

Josef Pavelka (52), an alcoholic who made national headlines when it emerged during a court case he had been living in a public toilet, was discovered dead in a laneway in Ennis, Co Clare, over the weekend.

Speaking outside St Peter & Paul Cathedral in Ennis, his Polish friend Piotr Baram said: "Today I am feeling bad, bad, very bad. I cry to myself only – not in a public place – about Josef. He is my best friend and he is gone.

"We were together every day from 7am until 10pm at night. We never argued. I miss him very much."

Mr Baram said he wanted to see Mr Pavelka's body "to say goodbye".

Mr Pavelka was found in a laneway behind the local Supermac's outlet on O'Connell Street at 11.30 on Saturday night.

Garda Inspector Tom Kennedy confirmed that a post-mortem on Mr Pavelka's remains took place at the Midwestern Regional Hospital in Limerick.

"No final results of the post-mortem will be released pending toxicology results," he said.

The Czech national came to national prominence last month when it emerged in the district court that both he and Mr Baram were living in public toilets in Ennis.

Judge Patrick Durcan described the situation as a "scandal" and said last week that the two had attained "celebrity status" in Ennis as a result of the attention around their plight.

Treatment

At the place where Mr Pavelka's body was found on Saturday, friends yesterday left bouquets of flowers, with a message on one reading: "Josef. Rest in peace, we'll miss you, from your friends."

Mr Baram said that he would like to get treatment for his alcohol addiction.

"If somebody tells me to go to a treatment centre in Limerick, Cork or Galway I will go. Drink killed my best friend Josef and I know I must stop drinking. I am now drinking less. Drink has now killed four friends of mine in Ennis over the past few years and I don't want to be the fifth to die from drinking."

The St Vincent de Paul, in consultation with other agencies, provided the two with emergency accommodation at a hostel in Galway last month and Mr Baram confirmed yesterday that after their return to Ennis, "myself and Josef were drinking much more as people gave us drink and money that we used to buy drink".

At Mr Pavelka's last court hearing last Wednesday, both men's physical appearance had deteriorated since their previous time in court from heavy drinking.

Mr Baram also confirmed that the two received social welfare payments of €100 each last Friday. He said: "I don't know if there will be any more money from social welfare."

Mr Baram continues to sleep rough around Ennis. He said that he didn't know if he would remain in Ennis, but said that he didn't wish to return to Poland for family reasons.

He said that locals had been "very kind" and were stopping him to shake his hand and sympathise following Mr Pavelka's death.

Anthony McDonagh, of local group Homeless Education and Learning Project (HELP), said: "Josef's death could have been avoided if there was more of a hands-on response to his situation."

Through his work with HELP, Mr McDonagh had known Mr Pavelka for a number of years and said: "Josef was a magic human being. He was a lovely person, very warm, kind and empathetic."

Mr McDonagh said that the response by the statutory agencies to Mr Pavelka's situation "was confused and there was a lack of communication between people at the front line and those higher up". He said that Mr Pavelka's health was not good and he had his appendix removed while in Galway.

Mr McDonagh said that Mr Baram now required urgent hands-on attention to deal with his addiction and a place to stay. "The rest can play out after that. At the moment, he is living through the good grace of people in Ennis."

Irish Independent