Man jumped from balcony after taking mushrooms, inquest told

A man jumped to his death from a third-floor balcony after consuming magic mushrooms, an inquest heard today.

The distraught parents of Colm Hodkinson said they hoped their campaign against magic mushrooms would save the lives of others.

Close friends of the 33-year-old, who ran a successful dry-cleaning business with his father Eoin, said they grew frantic with worry as he became severely unwell within minutes of taking two to three of the hallucinogenic mushrooms for the first time.

Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty warned there were young people walking the streets possibly considering experimenting with drugs.

“I hope at least one person might hear what I have to say today and hesitate before going down that road,” he said.

The victim’s parents, Eoin and Mary Hodkinson, said immediately after taking the mushrooms their son suffered a drug-induced psychosis, leading to hallucinations and his leap from the building.

His friend Johnny Hayes told the inquest he saw Mr Hodkinson run from his apartment at the Anchorage, Clarence Street, in Dublin’s Dun Laoghaire on October 30, 2005 in an agitated state and leap to his death within a short time after consuming a number of the mushrooms.

“He placed his hands on the rail and vaulted over at full speed,” he said. “I heard him hit the ground below. It made a horrible noise.”

After the jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure, recommending studies be carried out into the potential effects of mind-altering substances, his parents said: “He was one of the most popular people I know, was in excellent physical health, and was a great all round sportsman, with his love of golf, squash, and snooker.

“We believe that without magic mushrooms Colm would be alive today. We hope our campaign will save others.”

The parents said their successful attempt to get Health Minister Mary Harney to change the legislation to ensure the sale of the magic mushrooms was banned had come too late for them.

After Mr Hodkinson became agitated around 15 minutes after taking them, his friends said they brought him up to the balcony for air and then brought him back down.

“Colm was becoming ever more unwell and distressed,” Richard Glavin said, adding they were in a panicked state over Colm’s condition. “Everyone was very concerned… we were contemplating ringing ambulances.”

Mr Glavin said: “The whole incident was like a living nightmare.”

Mr Hayes said: “I am 100 per cent certain it was a direct effect of the magic mushrooms having a detrimental effect on him.”

His friend said Mr Hodkinson had lost track of reality before receiving severe head injuries after leaping from the balcony.

“The last three or four minutes were just lunacy,” Mr Hayes said. “It was like something was coming in on him. Whatever was over that balcony was the saviour from what ever was going on in his mind. He was outside of his own consciousness.”

Another friend, Shane O’Reilly said the 33-year-old had told him earlier that week that he was going to buy some magic mushrooms before having friends over on Sunday, October 30, to the apartment he had recently moved into with his girlfriend, Rachel Priest.

The inquest heard they had looked up information on the internet on magic mushrooms.

Mr O’Reilly said they had smoked a number of cannabis joints, and had a small number of beers as around eight friends gathered together watching golf on television, playing card games and Trivial Pursuit.

The inquest heard a small amount of cannabis and alcohol were detected in his system after death.

Another friend told the inquest Mr Hodkinson had bought around six punnets of the mushrooms for €90 from the Hemp Store on Dublin’s Capel Street.

Mr O’Reilly said four people, including Mr Hodkinson, were eating them with crisps to dilute the taste.

“They had less than two boxes between then,” he said, adding Mr Hodkinson had no more than three mushrooms.

Mr Glavin said the deceased had said the people working in the shop had told him the way to consume them.

“It was a very quiet get-together, we were talking and sipping drinks it wasn’t a wild party by any stretch,” Mr Glavin said.

He said he was unaware magic mushrooms were not supposed to be taken with alcohol or other narcotics.

Ms Priest, who was discussing calling an ambulance for her boyfriend, said she believed Mr Hodkinson would just get better after getting physically sick.

A barrister for the Hemp Company Dublin put it to Ms Priest that if they were purchased from the store they would have come with an advice leaflet.

But she said she had not seen any leaflet.

James McDonald, the owner of the Hemp Company Dublin, said staff in its three shops gave advice together with a leaflet to customers if they were taking them for the first time.

He told the inquest a cactus, San Pedro, was being sold in the shop, although it was not currently in stock, which could give similar hallucinogenic effects.

Frances Mahon from the State Laboratory gave details of other cases where people had suffered reactions.

She said studies have shown the adverse effects of consuming the naturally occurring hallucinogenic substance, psilocybin, in the mushrooms can include anxiety, paranoid illusion, disorientation and hallucinations.

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