Sunday 15 December 2019

Ethiopian police refuse to help probe into Irish woman's death

Joyce Campbell (25) died in the summer of 2005

Irish aid worker Joyce Campbell (25) died in the summer of 2005
Irish aid worker Joyce Campbell (25) died in the summer of 2005

Greg Harkin

Police in Ethiopia failed to investigate the death of a female Irish aid worker killed in a car crash and are now refusing to co-operate with Interpol in a new investigation, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Joyce Campbell (25) died in the summer of 2005, but her mother's nine-year battle to get to the bottom of what happened to her daughter, and to finally have a death certificate issued, has been met with a "wall of silence" from the Ethiopian authorities.

Irene Campbell also said the Government here has let the family down in its search for the truth.

Donegal Coroner John Cannon agreed in 2008 to hold an inquest into Joyce's death, but told her family at another hearing last week that Interpol had informed him that Ethiopian police did not investigate the car crash and were refusing to co-operate with their inquiries. At the resumed hearing in Letterkenny on Thursday, Mr Cannon said there had been little progress in the investigation.

"It seems there was no police investigation at the time of Ms Campbell's death or since," the coroner told Frank Dorrian, the solicitor representing the family.

"Interpol have made inquiries with the Ethiopian authorities but there has been very little co-operation, in fact none at all."

Joyce was a graduate of Development, Health and Disaster Management and she also had a master's degree in Humanitarian Assistance. She had been volunteering with the Vincentian Lay Missionaries and was three weeks into a four-month stay when the Land Rover in which she was a passenger crashed six hours from the capital Addis Ababa.

Joyce was the youngest of six children. Her father Paddy died three years ago.

Two male Irish aid workers were seriously injured in the crash.

The Ethiopian driver of the Land Rover was also slightly injured.

Mr Cannon told the family that gardai had obtained a statement from one of the two other Irish aid workers who was now living in Prague but had been unable to trace the other man.

Eye-witnesses say Joyce died at the scene of the crash, but an autopsy report from doctors at an Ethiopian hospital said she died 18 hours after the incident.

"So we do not know whether she died on July 31 or August 1. We have been unable to get a death certificate from Ethiopia and the Irish Government has done nothing to help us," said Irene.

"For three years after Joyce's death we were unable to move things forward. Then I saw an article in the Irish Independent by legal reporter Dearbhail McDonald about deaths in foreign countries being heard at inquests here and we wrote to Mr Cannon and he agreed to have a hearing.

"Unfortunately, despite his efforts and those of gardai and Interpol we are now here nine years later and after 11 adjournments and we still don't have clarity.

"We do believe Joyce died as a result of a road traffic accident - but we'd like to know what day she died and how she died. Did she die instantly or did she die the next day? There are too many unanswered questions."

Irene said former Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern had asked for a report from the missionaries into Joyce's death. Despite his request, the Ethiopians never compiled a report.

"There are no police records and no statement from the driver of the vehicle," she added.

"Joyce knew she was privileged; she knew she had a good background and a good education and she wanted to help others. I just want to know what date my daughter died. The coroner has tried his best to help us and we appreciate that, but our own Government has done nothing."

Mr Cannon adjourned the case for the eleventh time until November 6.

Sunday Independent

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