Bunch of flowers left by staff marks spot where homeless man died of hypothermia


Paul Doyle was a familiar sight sleeping rough in doorways in Bray

The sight of Paul Doyle sleeping rough in shop doorways around his home town had become familiar.

The 33-year-old grew up in Bray, Co Wicklow, but the circumstances surrounding his life and death are only now beginning to materialise.

His body was discovered on Saturday morning lying on concrete beside the entrance to a Tesco Express. Yesterday, a single bunch of flowers from staff pointed to where he had died in his sleep, presumably from hypothermia.

Bray Town Council held two emergency meetings over measures to avoid a similar tragedy happening again.

With temperatures descending, cathaoirleach Mick Glynn and officials took the decision to leave two public buildings open with working heaters – an old lifeguard hut and a defunct public toilet – as a “last resort” for those seeking warmth.

“I think there are three or four more people and we need to deal with them now. . . face to face,” Mr Glynn said last night.

However, in Mr Doyle’s case access to heat and food, services and a caring family was never an issue. He had all of those things and yet he still perished on the side of the street.

“The staff when they locked up at 11 o’clock noticed him there. They came in for work the next morning and found him dead. They phoned an ambulance,” said Mr Glynn. “There were homeless services in place but you can’t force people.”

Mr Doyle’s family had tried on numerous occasions to bring him home but, for reasons nobody quite understands, he did not want to go. He is survived by his parents, three sisters and a brother. Mr Doyle had left school at 17 with his Junior Certificate. He had mild cerebral palsy and a slight speech impediment.

Alcohol use

Later, while he had been treated for alcohol use, he is not thought to have had any major addiction while medical professionals believed his admissions of drug use were probably exaggerated. The courts and probation services tried to bring about stability and yet he was determined either to stay on the streets or return to prison.

“He was institutionalised,” said a source close to the family.

Mr Doyle had never been in trouble until 2008, when he was arrested after attempting to rob a shop. On his release from custody later that day, he repeated the process at a pharmacy in Shankill. It was as a result of these offences that he became “institutionalised”, the source said. On the streets, it is believed, he simply tried to fit in. “He was in the outer circle [of those he associated with],” the source said. “I really thought that at some stage he might meet a girl and settle. He was someone on the point of maturity but not quite [mature].”

Mental health

He was also known to discuss his mental health issues, although again these are thought to have been exaggerated for “street cred”.

“He was a nice guy, a normal guy,” said Ally Othman (47) who knew him from the nearby Five Loaves Day Care Centre, a centre that offers hot meals and clean clothes. “He would come and talk. Always he was alone but he would chat to everyone on the street.”

Another associate, who gave his name as Pádraig, said the family had done everything to help. “He was always welcome home but he wouldn’t go,” he said. “His family tried to come down and get him back to the house a million times.”

John Devane, a director volunteer at the centre, said it feeds between 35 and 55 people every day, not all of whom are homeless. “Christmas doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to us, the numbers are growing all the time,” he said. “This tragedy is not the first one we have seen.”