Postmortem unable to establish how man who ‘moved quietly’ through life died

Mental health nurse tells inquest that Stephen Corrigan ‘simply had no social contact’

A postmortem was unable to establish the cause of death of a man whose skeletal remains were found in the grounds of a Dublin apartment complex two years ago, an inquest has heard.

A Garda investigation began on April 9th, 2020 after bones were discovered at the base of a tree at Lissenfield off the Lower Rathmines Road.

The partial skeletal remains were later identified as being those of Stephen Corrigan, who was reported missing almost 10 years earlier.

Local resident Clare Love said she reported the bones to gardaí after a neighbour pointed them out to her.

Landscape gardener Keith Odlum told the inquest that he had placed the skeletal remains under the tree in November 2019 when clearing the area.

Mr Odlum said he found a skull and several bones and intended to notify gardaí­ about the find but became “busy and distracted” and forgot to.

A report by Dr Stephen Clifford of Forensic Science Ireland said Mr Corrigan’s identity was established in June 2020 by matching a DNA sample provided by his late mother, Hannah Corrigan, in 2015.

Dr Clifford said it was 700,000 times more likely that the skeletal remains belonged to a child of Ms Corrigan than to someone unrelated to her.

Cutting himself off

Mr Corrigan was aged 47 when he was first reported missing on November 25th, 2010 by HSE community mental health nurse Frank Hynes, who said the deceased had a history of sleeping rough and cutting himself off from society.

“He had no friends or enemies. He simply had no social contact.”

He said Mr Corrigan suffered from severe mental health issues including schizophrenia. He said he never saw him with any personal belongings.

The inquest heard Mr Corrigan had been living in The Weir Home, a care facility on Cork Street, Dublin which provided nursing and psychiatric care to male patients at the time he went missing. He moved there after a 16-month stay in St Brendan’s Hospital in Grangegorman.

Mr Hynes said there had been no concern about Mr Corrigan’s physical health around the time the health services lost contact with him.

Garda Niall Freaney said 54 human bones were recovered from the scene but forensic tests had not found anything to suggest that Mr Corrigan died as a result of foul play. He told coroner Dr Clare Keane that the location where Mr Corrigan’s remains were found was used as a place to sleep by members of the homeless community.

Consultant forensic anthropologist Dr René Gapert said an examination of the bones indicated they belonged to a male aged 35-49 who was around 5ft 10in tall. He estimated that the bones had been at that location for between five and 10 years.

Not determined

A postmortem by pathologist Dr Heidi Okkers found no evidence that Mr Corrigan had suffered any traumatic injuries. She said the cause of his death could not be determined due to the passing of time.

Based on the evidence, Dr Keane returned an open verdict.

Offering her condolences to Mr Corrigan’s relatives, the coroner remarked: “Although he moved quietly through his life and slipped quietly away, he was never forgotten.”

Fr Brendan Corrigan, a cousin of the deceased who was only traced after his death, said the deceased’s mother and late brother, Eddie, also had mental health issues. “The whole story is a sad story,” he said. “We were so sorry that we did not know. We could have helped in some way.”