A prisoner who took his life while awaiting trial for murder told prison staff, family members and a cellmate he intended to kill himself because he couldn’t cope with feelings of remorse, an inquest into his death heard.
Shane Rogers (32), Deery Terrace, Inniskeen, Co Monaghan, went to his local Garda station after fatally shooting Carrickmacross GAA footballer James Hughes, saying to the arresting officer: "It's a thin line, and I crossed it tonight."
Sgt Kieran Moore of Carrickmacross Garda station told Dublin Coroner's Court that Mr Rogers had called to speak to him shortly after the murder in Dundalk and said he wished to hand in his legally held shotgun.
Mr Hughes, a father of three, was shot dead early on December 11th, 2011 in a taxi he was sharing with Patricia Byrne, a former girlfriend of Mr Rogers.
Mr Rogers arrived at the Garda station at 4.29am and told Sgt Moore he had spent 10 minutes sitting on a bridge with the barrel of the gun in his mouth but said he “didn’t have the balls to pull the trigger”. Directing the sergeant to the weapon, he said: “That’s the gun and there’s one in the chamber.”
The sergeant continued: “I pulled back the bolt and a cartridge fell on the ground and he said ‘that was the one for me. . .’”
Mr Rogers took his life nine days later in a holding cell following a remand hearing at Cloverhill District Court. He had been identified as at high risk of suicide after his arrest, and lawyers for his family have questioned at the inquest what procedures were followed to monitor his welfare.
Sgt Moore said on the night of the murder Mr Rogers was "very remorseful for what he had done". When told that Mr Hughes had died "he asked [whether] the girl was still alive". The sergeant said he also overheard a telephone conversation Mr Rogers had with his sister in Australia "and he had told his sister not to come home at that time but to wait for his funeral".
Prison nurse Elaine Dunne, who examined Mr Rogers on admission to Cloverhill, said he had made poor eye contact and told her he saw no future for himself, while Stephen O'Reilly, an assistant chief officer at the prison, said he heard Mr Rogers tell the nurse that he could not do a life sentence "because he could not deal with the fact that he had taken another man's life".
The officer said this and Mr Roger's warning that he would kill himself at the earliest opportunity were recorded on a computer system. However, questions were raised at the inquest over who exactly had access to this system, and whether all information was shared between prison and medical staff.
Suicidal intent denied
The inquest heard that Mr Rogers denied suicidal ideation when asked directly by two separate GPs, and told community mental health nurse Fintan Caddow on December 14th that his thoughts about suicide "had passed".
The court heard he was moved from a special observation cell to a shared cell as it was not considered good for the mental health of a prisoner to be isolated for too long. A cellmate, Uja Iwo, said that while Mr Rogers expressed suicidal intent his mood improved closer to the court date on the 20th.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Conor O’Neill said the general feeling among staff was that “he appeared to be more settled” in the days before the hearing. Nonetheless they took an “extremely cautious approach” and kept him on Cloverhill’s D2 landing for vulnerable inmates, where less than 5 per cent of the prison’s population was held.
The inquest continues.