Coroner issues warning after fatality due to sexual asphyxia

Death most likely caused by auto-erotic asphyxiation which went ‘tragically wrong’

The coroner was moved to cautionary language after delivering a verdict in the case of Andrew Myers who was found hanging in a garden shed at the rear of his home. Photograph: The Irish Times

The coroner was moved to cautionary language after delivering a verdict in the case of Andrew Myers who was found hanging in a garden shed at the rear of his home. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

A coroner has warned people engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation that the practice is “fraught” with danger and can cause instantaneous death.

Dublin coroner Dr Brian Farrell made the comments before returning a verdict of misadventure at the inquest into the death of 29-year-old Andrew Myers who was found hanging in a garden shed at the rear of his home in Pinewoods, Clondalkin, Dublin 22nd, on January 19th last year.

The evidence at the inquest indicated that Mr Myers died while engaged in auto-erotic asphyxiation, a practice where a person intentionally restricts oxygen flow for sexual arousal.

“I don’t think that people understand the danger of this,” said Dr Farrell. “It is a highly dangerous thing to be engaged in. One slip and you will get tightening of the ligature causing reflex cardiac arrest.”

The inquest heard that Mr Myers was found in the shed, which he used for recreational purposes, by his father David Myers after he and his wife had returned home from their daughter’s house on January 19th. They last saw Andrew the previous day when they left the house to drop their daughter off at the airport. “Andrew was in good form when we left and he wished his sister well and told her he couldn’t wait to see her Friday when she returned,” he said.

Mounting concern

When they arrived back at the house, the lights were on and the dogs were barking “like they hadn’t been let out” which was unusual, said Mr Myers. When he went out to the garden he went up to his son’s shed to let him know that they were home. It was locked and when he rang his son’s phone he could hear it ringing from inside. He became concerned so forced the door open and found his son inside hanging.

Garda David Coughlan said rigor mortis was present. The postmortem found the cause of death was hanging. There was a small amount of alcohol in Mr Myer’s system when he died.

The court heard that Mr Myers was in a state of undress when he was discovered. There was no note or letter found and the family said he had never expressed any thoughts of suicide. Garda Coughlan confirmed that a laptop found in the shed was examined and “particular sites” had been visited.

Dr Farrell said the evidence was not consistent with death by suicide and it was more likely to be auto-erotic asphyxiation which went “tragically wrong”. Death happens “almost instantaneously”, he said, when pressure is placed on the carotid sinus in the neck.

“This practice of auto-erotic asphyxia is highly dangerous. I have actually seen videos, selfies, taken in this situation and death can occur so quickly once the pressure comes on the neck. It is a fraught practice and I think that is what happened,” he said.