Thursday 23 November 2017

Gerry's secret hell

He took cocaine before he died
He was receiving 'aggressive texts'
He was under stress over finances

Edel Kennedy

THE secret demons haunting broadcaster Gerry Ryan in the weeks before his death were revealed yesterday.

In public he was the same, larger-than-life, flamboyant broadcaster respected and loved across the country.

But known only to his closest friends, Mr Ryan was buckling under enormous personal, work and financial pressure.

He had been taking cocaine, he had barely slept in a fortnight, and he had been receiving "aggressive" text messages.

In the end, it proved all too much.

He collapsed and died alone in his Leeson Street flat.

A post-mortem showed he had a mixture of alcohol, and illegal and prescription drugs in his system.

But there will be no garda investigation into his death.

Dublin City Coroner Brian Farrell heard traces of cocaine were found in Mr Ryan's system after his death last April, and that the drug was likely to have triggered cardiac arrhythmia, leading to heart failure.

Extraordinary details of the life of the father-of-five emerged during the three-hour hearing yesterday.

It heard that Mr Ryan:

  • Was very ill in the fortnight before his death, suffering from heart palpitations and dizziness.
  • Was under "enormous pressure" from RTE, and was also under pressure as a result of the "terms of separation" from his wife.
  • Would go "grey" when he got "aggressive" phone calls and text messages.
  • Felt he had to go to work in the days before his death because of a change in RTE's sick leave policy.
  • Had made a solemn promise to his partner that he did not use drugs.

Mr Ryan was separated from his wife of 26 years, Morah, and at the time of his death he was in a relationship with Melanie Verwoerd, head of Unicef in Ireland. Yesterday, the women faced each other as details emerged of Mr Ryan's lifestyle and the strains he was under.

Ms Verwoerd revealed her partner had been under an extraordinary amount of stress as he tried to agree a separation with his wife, and over his job with RTE, while at the time same he battled huge financial difficulties.

She said in the last two weeks of his life he barely slept, waking up with heart palpitations.

"He would have to sit up in bed with breathlessness and felt very dizzy," she said. Ms Verwoerd said he promised at the start of the relationship not to take drugs. However, pathologist Dr Eamonn Leen told the packed courtroom that toxicology tests showed traces of cocaine in Ryan's body.

"Cocaine consumption has caused a toxic reaction in this gentleman's heart," he said.

Ms Verwoerd said when she became Mr Ryan's partner, she told him there were two un-negotiable issues, one being drug use. She told him she would be "out the door" if she ever found him taking drugs.

"I was confident he kept that promise to me up until the time of his death," she told the court.

A devastated Ms Verwoerd slumped in her seat and began to cry when it was later confirmed that toxicology tests had found cocaine in Mr Ryan's body. Afterwards Ms Verwoerd issued a handwritten statement in which she spoke of it being a "horrendously difficult day".

"The pain was made all the harder by the result of the autopsy and toxicology report, which came as a huge shock to me," she wrote.

Mrs Ryan also issued a statement saying the family were glad the inquest was over and that they were "proud to be his family".

Irish Independent

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