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Saturday 25 May 2019

We asked them to do something but they said no, best friend testifies

SOMEBODY told her that Praveen Halappanavar had collapsed in the corridor. He was vomiting repeatedly and unable to walk.

Savita's best friend, Mrudula Vasealli, spoke softly as she told of the immediate physical reaction the grieving young widower had had to the death of his beautiful young wife.

It was a deeply touching and highly personal moment exposed to the harsh scrutiny of the inquest process and can only have been painful for Praveen to hear.

With great dignity, he sat – a lonesome figure in the Galway courtroom – his face etched with sorrow as he recalled the events of just six short months ago.

Mrudula looked a likely candidate to be a friend of Savita's, judging from what we have heard and the pictures we have seen of the vivacious young woman who was firmly at the heart of the Indian community in Galway.

She had met her at one of their festivals above Joyce's shop in Knocknacarra, she explained. Savita had promised to teach the children to dance – and the adults too. They had eventually become friends and Savita had told her she was pregnant right from the start.

She was also the first person she turned to when she began to fear that her pregnancy was going awry, sending the busy mother a sweetly considerate text that read: "Give me a call when you have time."

Mrudula sat by Savita's hospital bed on the Tuesday as Praveen was driving his parents-in-law to the airport in Dublin, painting another disturbingly vivid image of the distraught woman as she lay, helplessly awaiting the inevitable miscarriage of her much-wanted daughter.

"What kind of a mother am I waiting for my baby to die?" Savita had cried out. "I am losing it and I am losing it terribly."

At around midday that day, she was with her friend when Savita had asked a midwife if it was possible to save the baby – and if not, if something could be done to "stop the heartbeat".

"We asked," she later firmly clarified under cross-examination.

But the midwife had said no. "We don't do that here dear, it's a Catholic thing," she said.

Mrudula was adamant this had occurred, later describing the physical appearance of the midwife in the navy blue who had said this. A woman in her 50s, she claimed, adding: "An old lady."

Praveen's barrister, Eugene Gleeson, smiled at that.

"Well, you are very young," he said kindly.

Later that evening, she was at home eating dinner with her family when she received a text from Savita thanking her for being such a good friend by coming to see her.

She replied, saying: "Don't be sending texts. Just come back home. We will have fun."

In the witness box, Mrudula wiped her eyes and maintained a fixedly downward gaze. This was the last real contact she had with Savita.

By the next day, Wednesday, her condition had deteriorated and she was on an oxygen mask and unable to talk.

On Saturday evening, the night before Savita's death, there were around 50 or 60 people from the Indian community in the corridor of the hospital, she said.

"It was terrible," Mrudula said in her statement.

Later, she learnt of Savita's death just as she reached the door of the Intensive Care Unit, when one of the couple's friends said she had had a heart attack.

Another friend had said: "No more." Praveen had collapsed.

Under cross-examination and with some heat, she insisted that the request had been made for a termination and also on the subsequent reply about it being a "Catholic country", despite being vigorously tested by barrister for the HSE, Declan Buckley.

Had she told Praveen about this conversation, as he drove home from Dublin Airport after dropping off Savita's parents, he asked repeatedly.

She thought she had – but they had spoken of many things. The important thing was Savita's health.

"That was the thing we were talking about," she said pointedly.

Irish Independent

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