Open verdict recorded in Andrew Clarke inquest

Restaurateurs urge vulnerable young people to seek help after death of son (16)

Restaurateurs Derry Clarke and Sallyanne Parker-Clarke have urged vulnerable young people in trouble to seek help, following the inquest into the death of their teenage son.

Andrew Clarke (16) was found slumped against a car in the garage of the family home on Meegans Lane, Crooksling, in Brittas, south Dublin on December 27th last year . He died four days later at Tallaght hospital. Dublin coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned an open verdict on Andrew's death.

His parents were present in court along with their daughter Sarah-May. They declined to give evidence from the witness box but their depositions were read into the record.

The court heard there was no history of clinical depression or self-harm and barrister for the family Paul McGarry said Andrew’s death had come “completely out of the blue”. Ms Parker-Clarke said her son had been in “normal humour and mood” on the day of the incident.

‘Devastated’

“He had not displayed any unusual behaviour. We had opened a number of Christmas presents and he had been up and down to his garage working on his car several times already that morning. We are totally and utterly devastated and dearly miss our darling son.”

Ms Parker-Clarke said she went to call him for brunch at 1.35pm. He had gone out to the garage about 25 minutes earlier. She found Andrew slumped against his car with a cord around his neck and discovered he was unconscious. She screamed for help and Mr Clarke arrived with Sarah-May and her boyfriend, Diarmuid O’Connor.

“We cut the cord and laid him on the ground beside his car and I started CPR with Diarmuid. Sarah-May called for medical aid which subsequently arrived. The ambulance men took over CPR and removed him to a waiting ambulance where they got a heartbeat,” she said.

He was taken to Tallaght hospital where a scan showed evidence of hypoxic brain injury, caused when his brain was deprived of oxygen during the incident. Brain stem death was later confirmed. Andrew died on the afternoon of December 31st. The court heard that three people benefited from organ donation following his death.

The pathologist gave the cause of death as a hypoxic brain injury as a result of asphyxia. Dr Farrell said a urine screen carried out on Andrew's admission to hospital found cocaine, benzodiazepines and painkiller medication in his system.

At postmortem, a breakdown product of cocaine was present.

Mr McGarry said the family had been “very surprised” and “shocked” when they heard the toxicology results.

Returning the open verdict, Dr Farrell said he did not believe the evidence met the legal standard required to return a verdict of suicide. The presence of cocaine and benzodiazepines, in particular, went to the question of intention, he said.