Lonely journey back to Galway stirs up memories for husband


As soon as Praveen Halappanavar began his journey from Dublin Airport back to Galway on Sunday afternoon, memories of Savita came flooding back.

“The memories were all catching up with me. It was my first time travelling back from the airport without her. I was feeling so lonely.”

Sitting in a close friend’s house on the outskirts of Galway city last night, Mr Halappanavar said all he wanted now was to find out the truth of what happened to his wife and why she died. He met his solicitor yesterday to discuss the draft terms of reference for the HSE inquiry into her death and today he will make a statement to the Garda for the inquest into her death, likely to be held early next year.

“I haven’t a clue who is at fault. I just want to know the truth. After Savita passed away I checked with a friend who said if the mother’s health is at risk they can terminate the baby, but it’s too late.”

He says he has no idea who, if anyone, is to blame. The care she got, particularly in the intensive care unit, was very good.

Asked if he and Ms Halappanavar had been offended by the reference he says was made to Ireland being a “Catholic country” when they asked why a termination could not be carried out while the foetus was still alive, he said: “Well, we thought the consultant was bound by the law.

“We didn’t know what the law was. We didn’t know we would come across this scenario ourselves. We knew that abortion is illegal. I think it was a termination, a medical necessity to save a bigger life because they knew they couldn’t save the baby.”

Media focus

He says the scale of the media attention had been overwhelming for him and Ms Halappanavar’s family in India. “We never expected that. It came as a shock.”

He had been in his home town of Haveri, about a two-hour drive from his wife’s home in Belgaum in the southwest of the country, when her father called him to say the story was on the BBC. “That was a shock. Then within a few hours the Indian media were calling. I got 400 calls that night and the next day I had 270 missed calls.” He said her parents decided to speak to the media when asked to “because they want to know the truth”.

They had watched footage of Saturday’s vigil in Dublin attended by up to 15,000 people. “They were very overwhelmed by that. They didn’t expect it.”

He and Savita married in 2008. “It was a happy day,” he says. Savita had planned to renew their vows on their 10th anniversary. “It was very warm. We got married in summer and she wanted to get married in winter. It was very warm, all her make-up, you know and she was concerned because she was wearing a 10m sari. It was very heavy with all the ornaments and she was complaining.

“She was full of life, very optimistic. She used to easily make friends . . . Everyone in the family is very proud of her.”