| 14.1°C Dublin

'Life has been hell without Gerry in it'

THE grieving partner of broadcaster Gerry Ryan said her life had been "hell" for the past year and will be "hell for a long time still".

But Melanie Verwoerd told the Irish Independent yesterday how her role with UNICEF Ireland had helped her cope since his sudden death.

"Gerry was always proud of my work and I'm sure he would have been proud of this," she said at the launch of a report on the mental health of young people in Ireland.

However, she admitted she was still in anguish over Ryan's death at his rented home on Leeson Street, Dublin, in April last year.

"The last year has been absolute hell and I suspect it will be hell for a long time still," she said. "I lost the man I loved and I'm heartbroken, and that is the hell.

"But work helps me, it helps to be able to do something for children, not only outside Ireland, but also to work with children here."

The former South African ambassador to Ireland said the sudden death of the RTE star had encouraged her to increase her involvement.

"If there's something the last year has taught me, it is that life can be very cruel, and there is very little you can control about life," the 43-year-old said.

"So the things I can control, like being able to make a difference in whether children get malaria or not, or whether children die from cholera, or starvation -- those things I choose to do something about and I have focused my energy on that."

Ms Verwoerd has rarely spoken in public since Ryan's death but did issue a statement marking the first anniversary earlier this year.

"On this anniversary of his death, my heart goes out to all those who loved Gerry, but in particular to the children that shared his life," she said.

"He was a great father figure, not only to his five children but also to my two children. I know that they all miss him beyond description."

Ryan, a father of five children with his estranged wife Morah, was found in his Dublin flat on the floor of his bedroom on April 30 last year.

An inquest into his death found the 53-year-old had traces of cocaine in his system.

Irish Independent