UK police investigate death of Irish woman who was in psychiatric care

Margaret Molyneux’s daughter claims high dose of drug led to difficulty swallowing and choking

UK police are investigating the death of an Irish woman which her daughter alleges was linked to being administered too high a dosage of a psychiatric medication.

Margaret Molyneux (69) was a English lecturer who moved from Kerry to the UK as a child.

She suffered from bipolar disorder had been receiving treatment in the Kingfisher Court mental health unit in Radlett, Hertfordshire, before her death.

Ms Molyneux's daughter, Petria Foley, believes the administration of high doses of olanzapine, an anti-psychotic medication, led to her mother being unable to swallow food properly, which caused her to choke one morning while eating porridge.


This caused Ms Molyneux to develop a form of pneumonia which led to her death at Watford General Hospital in July 2017, she said.

A coroner’s inquest found Ms Molyneux died of natural causes. However, a follow-up review by an independent commission stated it was difficult to see why she was given such a high dose of the drug and found it was “likely to have at least contributed to some of the physical problems she experienced”, including dysphagia, the medical term for difficulty in swallowing.

The NHS carried out its own review which found the administration of olanzapine was appropriate and that dysphagia is not a recognised side effect of the drug.

Earlier this year, Ms Foley made a criminal complaint to Hertfordshire Constabulary which is currently investigating the circumstances of her mother's death.

It is understood the police has sought a report from a forensic toxicologist and have been receiving advice from the National Crime Agency, the UK equivalent of the FBI.

The final report is likely to dictate whether criminal charges of corporate manslaughter or unlawful act manslaughter might be considered by the Crown Prosecution Service.

No arrests have been made to date.

A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, which oversaw Ms Molyneux’s psychiatric care said it was assisting the police.

“We continue to offer our condolences to Ms Molyneux’s family for their loss. We shared the findings of our investigation into Ms Molyneux’s care with her family and are currently helping the police with their enquiries, so it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this stage.”

Ms Foley told The Irish Times her mother had taken lithium to treat her bipolar disorder but that this was stopped in early 2017 when she was found to have lithium toxicity.

Ms Molyneux’s mental health then began to deteriorate. “She got very, very unwell. That led to her being sectioned under the Mental Health Act,” her daughter said.

She was put on a dose of olanzapine exceeding the recommended maximum and was subsequently diagnosed with dysphagia after a spell of hospital treatment.

Ms Foley said her mother continued to be given olanzapine in Kingfisher Court despite a recommendation from doctors in Watford General Hospital that her medication be reviewed.

Ms Molyneux choked while eating porridge a short time later and was readmitted to Watford General Hospital where she died on July 5th, 2017.

Ms Foley said her mother lived in Ireland until she was nine. "She always wanted to return to Ireland. She may well have done that if this had not happened."

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times