Jury finds paedophile priest died of natural causes


A jury at the inquest into the death of the paedophile priest Brendan Smyth has found that he died of natural causes. The coroner at Naas Courthouse was told the 70-year-old priest suffered from severe coronary artery disease. The inquest heard evidence from staff of the Curragh prison, gardai in Co Kildare and the State Pathologist, Dr John Harbison. The Curragh Prison's acting chief officer, Mr Gerry Kavanagh, said Smyth had been transferred from Arbour Hill to the Curragh last August 8th. He had settled into a normal routine, and Mr Kavanagh was aware his medical history included a heart complaint and asthma.

During his stay at the prison, Smyth was checked every 15 minutes in his cell. He exercised up to three times each day. Mr Kavanagh said Smyth was in good form during this time. He kept his distance from other prisoners.

During the two weeks he was there, Smyth received only one visitor, a priest whom he had telephoned from the prison. The priest visited Smyth the day before his death.

Mr Thomas Corbally, a prison officer, told the inquest he was about to go off duty on the evening of Smyth's death when he learned that a prisoner had collapsed in the exercise yard. He saw Smyth being attended to by a medical officer. He left the prison with Smyth in an ambulance at 6.15 p.m. and travelled to Naas Hospital.

A doctor at the hospital confirmed Smyth's time of death as 6.40 p.m. Garda Michael Keane stayed with the body until 11.30 p.m. and returned on Monday, August 25th, when the State Pathologist, Dr John Harbison, carried out the post-mortem examination.

Dr Harbison gave the inquest an extensive report of the results. He noted that Smyth had two cuts on the bridge of his nose and later confirmed these were consistent with details of the fall which Smyth experienced. Dr Harbison confirmed that Smyth died from natural causes. He said there was no indication of any maltreatment and nothing to suggest any dietary shortcomings. There was no sign of any acute asthmatic attack. Smyth had severe coronary artery disease.

The coroner, Mr Denis Cusack, confirmed there was no witness to Smyth's death but that a surveillance camera had filmed the incident. In the interest of prison security and several other factors, he ruled that this film could only be seen by the jury and senior Garda officers.

The jury found that Smyth died of natural causes.