Ryan inquest told cocaine use contributed to death


The inquest into the death of broadcaster Gerry Ryan has found he died of heart failure with cocaine as a probable trigger factor.

Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said the death was sudden and unexpected, with "cocaine as a significant risk factor". He returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

The RTÉ broadcaster died on April 30th this year. He was discovered in his flat in Leeson Street Dublin by his girlfriend Melanie Verwoerd, and her son.

Pathology reports showed the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, most likely caused by cocaine consumption.

The inquest was also told that Ryan had been under extreme stress from his personal situation, financial affairs and work.

Pathologist Dr Eamon Leen, who carried out the autopsy on Ryan's body, said his heart had chronic scarring which could have been caused by previous cocaine use or by a viral infection in the past.

The doctor could not definitively say what the cause of the scarring was because he did not know Ryan's history, he said.

Metabolites of cocaine, created when the body breaks down the drug, were found in blood and urine samples along with a metabolite created when alcohol is mixed with cocaine.

Counsel for the Ryan family, Brendan Grehan SC, pointed out that Ryan had symptoms of dizziness, panic attacks and shortage of breath before his death and asked if this could have contributed to his heart failure.

Dr Leen said he could not speculate. "Some of these symptoms overlap with the effect of cocaine itself," he said.

Ms Verwoerd said Ryan had promised her he would not use drugs and this was a condition of their relationship. She believed he had kept that promise.

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Ryan’s wife Morah, from whom he had separated, and family said they were glad to have the inquest behind them.

She urged anyone under stress or facing worries and pressure to get professional help. “In these difficult times for so many families in our country, we want to take this opportunity to say to anyone under stress, or with pressure or worries of any kind, to reach out for personal support and professional help,” the statement read.

“Gerard was a communicator and yet he too struggled. If today is to mean something, it is to offer encouragement. If it is to have a message, it is that there is always someone to share your problem with, someone to offer professional advice and someone to shine light into your life when you need it most. There is always someone to ask.

“That is the simple message Gerard would have dearly wished from today.”

Ms Ryan said the past number of months had been very difficult.

“Our wish is that Gerard’s memory will be left to our children now, as it should be, for a dad in a million who lived for them.

“He lived life to the full, it made him who he was. He loved us and we loved him. We are proud to be his family.”

She thanked the coroner’s office for their professionalism and sensitivity and those who sent the family messages of sympathy and support.

“We are very grateful and take enormous comfort from the fact that Gerard was part of the daily lives of so many people and that, in his own inimitable way, he entertained, listened, helped and gave a voice to so many people,” the statement said.

The family said it would not be making any further comment and asked for privacy.

In a statement, Ryan’s partner Melanie Verwoerd said the results of the toxicology report came as a “huge shock” to her.

“Gerry knew how strongly I felt against drugs and had made a promise at the beginning of our relationship that he would not use any drugs. As far as I know that is a promise he kept for two years and until the night of his death,” she said.

“I had not seen Gerry during his last day and was not with him on the night of his death. So I will probably never know exactly what happened or why.

“What I do know is that Gerry was a warm, caring and generous man who was under huge stress personally, professionally and financially,” she said. “I miss him dearly.”

In a statement, RTÉ said it again wishes to acknowledge its sadness at the sudden loss of Ryan.

“RTÉ extends once again its sincere sympathies to Gerry’s wife Morah, to his children and family, former colleagues, close friends and partner Melanie Verwoerd,” it said.