Man's body lay for 12 days in grounds of psychiatric hospital

 

Health board officials have promised improved search procedures after the body of a missing outpatient lay undiscovered in the grounds of a Kilkenny psychiatric hospital for 12 days.

The body of Mr Michael Lanigan (67) was found about 100 yards from the main hospital building in the grounds shared by St Canice's Hospital and the South Eastern Health Board headquarters.

While the body was partly concealed by knee-high grass, it was visible from about 30 feet, according to a member of the search team which found it last November 22nd.

Previous searches by health board staff and the Garda were unsuccessful, but the body was found when the Civil Defence became involved in a new search.

There was evidence, however, that the body was seen by at least one individual, possibly a hospital patient, as the head was partially covered by clay.

Mr Lanigan, from Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, lived in sheltered accommodation in High Street, Kilkenny, and attended a workshop as an outpatient at St Canice's. It is believed he had a heart attack while taking a short cut through the hospital grounds.

A health board spokeswoman said it was very upsetting for staff and Mr Lanigan's relatives that it had taken so long to find him.

Policy on missing persons had been reviewed after the incident, and any similar cases in future would begin with a co-ordinated search of the 40-acre hospital grounds, she said.

She cited the length of the grass, the size of the grounds and the fact that staff were searching for a missing man and not a body as reasons for not finding it.

But the source involved in the search said the body was quite visible. In addition, it has been learned that Mr Lanigan weighed 17 stone, and a laundry bag which he was carrying when he died was found beside the body.

Health board staff first began searching for Mr Lanigan, in darkness, on the night he went missing, the spokeswoman said. Further staff searches took place daily before the Garda became involved after some days and co-ordinated the search.

A Garda spokesman said it was satisfied everything possible had been done to locate Mr Lanigan. The Garda helicopter had been used, and the body was finally recovered following a search co-ordinated by local gardai.

But it is understood Mr Lanigan's body was found within hours of the Civil Defence first becoming actively involved.

Civil Defence personnel, who had been told the hospital grounds had already been searched, gardai and neighbours of the dead man were all part of the team which found him.

Before the Civil Defence's involvement, much of the search had concentrated on the Nore river and on Mr Lanigan's home area of Thomastown. A full post-mortem report is awaited but it has been established that Mr Lanigan died from a heart attack.