Saturday 23 March 2019

Woman in court bid over brother's 'suspicious' death

THE sister of a man found dead at the end of the stairs in his home in what she believes were suspicious circumstances brought High Court proceedings yesterday to secure documents in the possession of a coroner.

She has asked for the documents prior to an inquest taking place. The woman claims a bedroom in her brother's house near Birr, Co Offaly, was covered in blood; that a life assurance policy was taken out shortly before his death; and a person was admitted to a mental hospital shortly after the death with clothes covered in blood.

The judicial review proceedings have been taken by Nuala Ramseyer, a company director of Castlewarden, Straffan, Co Kildare, against Brian Mahon, acting coroner for Co Offaly.

At the end of yesterday's hearing, Mr Justice Rodrick Murphy reserved judgment.

Ms Ramseyer said her brother James Goonan (51) died some time between March 10 and 11, 2002 at his home at Hawthorn Drive, Crinkle in Birr. He was found dead at the foot of the stairs. A post-mortem examination was carried out by then Deputy State Pathologist Marie Cassidy. Ms Ramseyer stated in an affidavit the full extent of the garda investigation into the death of her brother was unknown. She said the possibility that her brother had died after falling down the stairs appeared to be plausible initially.

But a number of aspects caused her to believe it might not be accidental: a person was admitted to a mental hospital shortly after Mr Goonan's death and some clothes covered in blood were removed from this person; when she went up to the bedroom in Mr Goonan's house it was covered in blood; and a life assurance policy was taken out about six to eight weeks before he died.

Gerard Hogan, SC, for Ms Ramseyer said Dr Cassidy considered death occurred by natural causes. The post-mortem report records the exact cause as "haemorrhage and shock from laceration of the head".

Mr Mahon of High Street, Tullamore, said he believed the Dublin City Coroner had a policy of only releasing draft depositions to the next of kin ahead of an inquest in exceptional circumstances.

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