Open verdicts on deaths of homeless man and woman

Inquest hears that Paddy O’Driscoll and Michelle O’Riordan drowned in the river Lee

The court heard that gardaí did not believe there was foul play involved. Photograph: Getty Images

The court heard that gardaí did not believe there was foul play involved. Photograph: Getty Images

 

A jury has returned open verdicts on the deaths of a homeless man and woman whose bodies were recovered within yards of each other from the river Lee in Cork city centre just days before Christmas 2014.

Paddy O’Driscoll (53) originally from Marsh Road, Skibbereen, Co Cork, and Michelle O’Riordan (27) from Lagan Grove, Mayfield, Cork, died from drowning at Custom House Quay in Cork, the inquest heard.

Sgt David Callaghan said that it was speculation to say what exactly happened to the two deceased after they were captured on CCTV cameras entering the Port of Cork premises on Custom House Quay at about 5.40pm on December 4th.

Although their bodies were not recovered until 10 days later, Sgt Callaghan said he believed that they died soon after entering the unprotected quay area as Mr O’Driscoll’s watch was stopped at 6.10pm and nobody using the quay area saw them later that evening.

Ms O’Riordan’s father, Declan, told Cork Coroner’s Court that he met his daughter on November 28th and tried to persuade her to come to stay with him but she wanted to stay with her boyfriend Jessie at his flat on Charlemont Terrace.

He tried contacting her on December 3rd and 4th on her mobile phone without success after she failed to turn up for a social welfare appointment on December 2nd. On the 11th he called to Cork Simon, where she had been staying, to learn they had not seen her for a week.

Cork Simon staff member Marie O’Sullivan told how she saw Ms O’Riordan outside the Simon shelter on Anderson’s quay at 2pm on December 4th and she was intoxicated. So she told her to come back an hour later after she had sobered up.

Daughter missing

Ms O’Sullivan’s colleague Denise Cremin told how she refused Ms O’Riordan entry to the shelter at 5.15pm on December 4th as she was still intoxicated. And after an exchange she walked off with Mr O’Driscoll in the direction of Andersen’s Quay.

Mr O’Riordan had earlier told how he had reported his daughter missing to gardaí at Anglesea Street Garda station on December 11th. Sgt Callaghan told how on December 12th he came on duty and assigned a person to investigate her disappearance.

Gardaí checked 24 hours of CCTV footage from the Port of Cork premises on December 13th and saw the pair entering the yard area at 5.40pm on December 4th. But they found no trace of them leaving the yard and he believed they had entered the river, he said.

Using a sidescanner sonar, Mallow Search and Rescue spotted an image of a body near the confluence of the north and south channels and Naval Service divers recovered the bodies on the night of December 14th.

Ms O’Riordan’s handbag had been found in the Port of Cork yard on December 5th by staff and handed into Anglesea Street station where it was identified it as Ms O’Riordan’s and logged. But it was usual for homeless people to often not claim lost property, the inquest heard.

Assist State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said that she had to check dental records to identify both deceased. But from her examination she was satisfied that they drowned on or around December 4th when they were last seen alive.

Ms O’Riordan and Mr O’Driscoll had high alcohol levels in their blood of more than 220mgs per 100mls each, which would have affected co-ordination in an area not protected by any wall, she said.

Gardaí did not believe there was foul play involved. But they sent a file on the case to the DPP who agreed with their view, said Sgt Callaghan, adding it was impossible to know what exactly happened as there was no sighting of the pair after 5.40pm on December 4th.

The jury returned open verdicts in the case of both deaths and Cork City Coronrer Dr Myra Cullinane extended her deepest sympathies to the O’Riordan and O’Driscoll families while condolences were expressed on behalf of the Garda by Sgt Fergus Twomey.