Homeless couple used drug before drowning in canal, inquest told
A HOMELESS couple who were found drowned in the Grand Canal in Dublin had been injecting cocaine and were with another man on the morning they were last seen, an inquest heard yesterday.
Det Garda Colm Reynolds said conditions at the time in December were very bad, rendering the canal bank dangerous. Gardaí believe the couple were the victims of a tragic accident, he said.
The jury returned separate verdicts of death by misadventure for both.
Wendy Atkinson (30), a mother of one, originally from Tallaght, and Robert Sneddon (29), from Whitehall, were found dead in the water at the Luas bridge over the Grand Canal at the Suir Road on December 18th, 2010.
Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that the couple, who had been staying at the Clancy night shelter on Blessington Street, went to the bridge with another hostel resident, Anthony Quinn, at about 11am on December 16th.
Mr Quinn did not appear at the inquest and his written deposition was read into the record.
In it, he said they bought €200 worth of cocaine before going to the bridge and climbing down to the bank. All three then started injecting the drug, he said.
When Ms Atkinson had taken her fourth hit, she started to go “wobbly”, so he held her by the shoulders to keep her steady, he said.
“As I was holding Wendy, Robert came up behind me and gave me three digs. He hit me three times in the head,” he said. “I didn’t hit him back. I didn’t defend myself. I just legged it.”
He left his jacket and wallet when he ran, he said.
CCTV footage retrieved by gardaí showed Mr Quinn at a nearby Luas stop at about 12.50pm. He told gardaí he then went to the Ana Liffey Drug Project on Abbey Street, where he told staff about the scuffle and he was given a replacement coat. He later signed back into the hostel at Blessington Street and he did not see the couple again, he said.
The bodies were discovered two days later when a passerby noticed a wallet on the embankment and went to investigate. He saw Mr Sneddon’s jacket floating in the water with the body partially submerged. It was not until gardaí arrived that Ms Atkinson’s body was discovered. She was identified by her father, Damien, and Mr Sneddon was identified by his mother, Dorothy.
Gardaí treated the deaths as suspicious and State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy carried out the postmortem. She found that both had drowned and there was no evidence of an assault. Toxicology screens revealed both had been taking cocaine.
It had been cut with lignocaine and both registered fatal doses of the drug. Benzodiazepines and methadone were also found in their systems.
Mr Quinn was arrested by gardaí during their investigation, but he remained adamant that when he left the couple, they were both fine. No witnesses who saw the couple go into the water came forward. A file was prepared for the DPP who directed no prosecution.