Irish student died after 4-metre fall in London, inquest told

Patrick Halpin (18), who was studying actuary in DCU, was on a trip with fellow students

A handout photo issued by Metropolitan Police of Patrick Halpin. The family of the ‘gifted and talented’ student who disappeared during a college trip to London was given false hope he was alive when they were mistakenly told he had boarded his plane home to Ireland, an inquest has heard. Photograph: PA

A handout photo issued by Metropolitan Police of Patrick Halpin. The family of the ‘gifted and talented’ student who disappeared during a college trip to London was given false hope he was alive when they were mistakenly told he had boarded his plane home to Ireland, an inquest has heard. Photograph: PA

Fri, Mar 28, 2014, 15:04

Patrick Halpin, the Galway youth who died tragically in an accident in London in February, was killed in a fall of less than four metres, a coroner’s inquest has been told in London.

The 18-year-old Loughrea, Co Galway student, a first-year actuary student at Dublin City University, had been on a trip to London with fellow students.

His father, Paddy sobbed frequently during yesterday’s Westminster Coroner’s Court before Coroner Angela Hodes, comforted by his wife, Elsie and daughter, Regina.

Mr Halpin’s family had been told “by a cruel twist in the investigation” that he had checked in for a return flight to Ireland at Gatwick Airport, Detective Sergeant Paul Stephens said.

However, the Galway youth had checked in online, not in person. The UK Border Agency had not received the list of passengers actually onboard the Ryanair flight when they said he had been found.

Apologising to the family for “the systems failure” at Gatwick, Det. Sgt. Stephens said changes to rules and training have been introduced since Mr Halpin’s death.

In a statement later, the Halpin family paid tribute to the Metropolitan Police saying that it had “worked tirelessly to find Patrick”, naming officers who had been “a credit to their force”.

“Any lesson learned during the investigation that will reduce the impact on and help other families who find themselves in similar circumstances will be welcomed,” the family.

Det Sgt Stephens said Mr Halpin had been asked by bouncers to leave the Zoo Bar, off Leicester Square shortly after midnight after he had accidentally knocked into another patron.

Toxicology tests later carried out on Mr Halpin’s body later found that he had just 40mg of alcohol per 100mg of blood - half the legal limit.

Some alcohol would have metabolised after death, but Det. Sgt. Stephens said three doormen reported that Mr Halpin had “been tipsy, but not drunk and was polite and co-operative”.

They had told him to leave and go and get something to eat and that he would be allowed back. Mr Halpin told friends that he was going for something to eat.

He went to a nearby Burger King. Close-circuit television cameras later showed him making his way into a staff area in the restaurant through two clearly-marked doors.

The doors are fitted with number-coded push-button locks, but the doors were left on the latch by staff during busy times as they went to and fro.

On the video, Mr Halpin is seen as being unsteady on his feet occasionally, missing a door-handle at one point and having to take a step backwards.

Inside the staff area, the 18-year-old used the toilet before scrambling out onto the roof at the back, possibly in an effort to get back into the Zoo Bar.