Homeless woman was hoping to get treatment, inquest hears

Coroner returns a verdict of death by misadventure for Jennifer Dennehy

A homeless woman living in a tent and addicted to prescription medicines was hoping to get into rehab when she died in Cork, an inquest has heard today.

Jennifer Dennehy, (30) formerly of Cherry Lawn, Church Road, Blackrock in Cork city died at Gillabbey Park on September 2nd, 2017 after taking three prescribed medicines.

Cork City Coroner Philip Comyn returned a verdict of death by misadventure after hearing Ms Dennehy was planning to get into rehab for her addiction.

The inquest heard how Ms Dennehy had been living at a flat at Homeville Place on Western Road but was evicted when she stopped paying her rent after Social Welfare stopped her rent allowance.


Ian Drummy (27) told the inquest he had befriended Ms Dennehy when she was still living at the flat on Western Road and she gave him a key. He had stayed there with her for several weeks.

She was on crutches at the time and her leg was in plaster after she broke her tibia and fibula when she fell while on painkillers, he said.

When Ms Dennehy was evicted after getting a month’s notice from her landlord, he invited her to join him in a tent he had been using to sleep in at various locations around Cork.

They stayed in a few spots around the city before pitching the tent at Gillabbey Park off the Western Road late on September 1st.

“I went to sleep around 2am - she was still up watching something on her phone - when I woke up the next morning, she was still beside me but she had turned and her head was by the entrance.”

Mr Drummy said that he dozed off again and woke at about 11am. When he noticed that Ms Dennehy had not moved, he called her name and shook her but she still did not move.

“I got up and lifted her head and I saw that her lips were blue - I checked for a pulse on her neck and wrist but could not find any,” said Mr Drummy.

He then went to a nearby house to raise the alarm.

Empty wrappings

“I went back to the tent and held Jennifer’s head until the guards arrived. She told me a while back she was addicted to Neurofen Plus and she was hoping to get into treatment for it.”

Ms Dennehy was pronounced dead at 12.50pm and gardaí found four empty wrappings for a prescription medicine called pregabalin, which is used to treat epilepsy among other conditions.

The inquest also heard a report from Dr Joan Montgomery, who had treated Ms Dennehy and confirmed that she had suffered from an addiction to Neurofen Plus as well as mental health issues.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said she found toxic levels of three prescribed medicines in Ms Dennehy's system - pregabalin, methadone and tramadol, a painkiller.

The level of each of the drugs was well above the therapeutic range and well into the lethal range. The combination of all three had a depressive effect on Ms Dennehy’s central nervous system.

“The brain controls your heart and your breathing and what would have happened is that her breathing would have got shallower and shallower until it stopped - she would not have suffered.”

Good form

Mr Comyn said that in such circumstances involving death by drug overdose, there was usually two verdicts open to him but there was no evidence of Ms Dennehy being suicidal or intent on self-harm.

In fact, Mr Drummy had confirmed she was in good form on the night before and was planning to get into treatment for her drug addcition, so the appropriate verdict was one of misadventure, he said.

“It’s sad to reflect that somebody could die in this day and age in such circumstances,” said Mr Comyn as he extended his sympathies to Ms Dennehy’s family and friends on their loss.

Solicitor for Ms Dennehy family, Martin Harvey, thanked Mr Comyn and said his clients also wanted to thank the emergency services and gardaí . He also appealed for privacy for the family.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times