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Woman whose daughter died after ingesting methadone said she was grieving for her other daughter who had died months earlier

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Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

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A woman whose daughter died days after ingesting methadone was at the time in her “own little world” and grieving her other young daughter who had died tragically months earlier, a court has heard.

Two-year-old Heidi Douglas died on April 19, 2016, three days after she had been admitted to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.

A post mortem report concluded she had suffered acute brain inflammation, "most likely" caused by having ingested methadone, resulting in her death.

Her mother, Sadie Douglas (39) of Rathsallagh Drive, Shankill, Co Dublin, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to child neglect leading to Heidi’s death.

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Ms Douglas’ partner, Christopher O’Reilly, of the same address, pleaded guilty last July to the same charge of child neglect leading to his daughter’s death.

The trial has heard that O’ Reilly was a recovering heroin addict and was taking daily doses of methadone, a heroin substitute, obtained on weekly prescription from a local chemist.

The couple’s older daughter, four-year-old Sophie, had died tragically in February 2016 from a brain haemorrhage arising out of a birth condition known as AVM, short for arteriovenous malformation.

Detective Garda Kieron Murphy told Fionnuala O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that Sadie Douglas spoke voluntarily to gardaí and gave an account of the days before Heidi’s death.

Ms Douglas told gardaí, “I was still having a hard time of it after Sophie. I was in my own little world, I was really low.”

She said the day before Heidi was taken to hospital, her mother told her that Sophie had appeared to her in her sleep and kept saying “it’s in the press.”

When Christopher O’Reilly searched the press he found a phone that had been lost nine months earlier containing photos of Sophie. The couple stayed up looking at photos and Ms Douglas said she didn’t sleep that night and when the alarm went for school the next morning, she turned it off.

“I told Christopher, ‘I’m knackered and emotional, I’m not going to school,’” Ms Douglas told gardaí, adding: “I wish I could take back that morning.”

“It wasn’t a usual morning, everything was off schedule. It’s Sophie we were grieving for,” Ms Douglas told gardaí.

The court heard Heidi went downstairs with her then six-year-old brother who got her chocolate spread and breadsticks, and that the children were “up and down the stairs” and watching telly.

Ms Douglas told gardaí Heidi was “grand, a bit wheezy” and went to sleep in her cot before she was found unresponsive and not breathing at about 3pm.

Dr Colm Costigan, consultant paediatrician at Our Lady’s Childrens’ Hospital in Crumlin, said the family called emergency services who arrived quickly.

Paramedics noticed that Heidi’s pupil were pinpoint-size, which is one of the signs of an overdose, and administered Naloxone which is an antidote to methadone.

The child was intubated and ventilated but began to have seizures and toxicology reports tested positive for methadone.

A CT scan revealed acute cerebellitis or swelling of the brain, to such a degree that the brain got pushed down into the cervical chord which was fatal.

Dr Costigan said the methadone had probably entered Heidi’s system “a few hours” before she went into hospital.

Forensic scientist Kristen O’Connor told the court that Christopher O’Reilly’s DNA was found on a measuring cup containing a sticky residue of methadone, found on top of a chest of drawers in the master bedroom.

The court heard that two other DNA profiles were also present on the cup, but at too low a level for adequate testing.

A large plastic bottle containing methadone prescribed to Christopher O’Reilly was also found in the house, together with a smaller glass bottle containing methadone prescribed for another person.

Ms Douglas told paramedics she didn’t understand how Heidi could have got her hands on the methadone, as her partner normally “drained” the last bit of his weekly prescription on Wednesday, then went to the chemist on Thursday to collect the following week’s prescription.

“That’s the bit I don’t get, 'cos Christopher would drink his methadone, the last bit, on Wednesday. I don’t know where she got it from. It doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“Christopher was taking methadone for years and it wouldn’t be like him to leave it around,” said Ms Douglas.

Garda Murphy told Conor Devally SC, defending, that Christopher O’Reilly went to gardaí very upset in November following Heidi’s death.

He told gardaí that he may have emptied the residue of various bottles into a cup or a dispenser, that he wasn’t able to say whether or not he had drunk that, and that there was a possibility he had “left something around” the night before Heidi was taken to hospital.

Gda Murphy told the court that Sadie Douglas has no previous convictions and has never come to adverse garda attention.

The trial continues before Judge Orla Crowe and a jury. One juror was discharged from service after he tested positive for Covid.


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