Family anger with death in custody decision

No-one will be prosecuted over the death of a Dublin man in police custody, it emerged today.

Terence Wheelock, 20, from Summerhill, was found unconscious in his cell in Store Street garda station last June after attempting to hang himself with the cord from his tracksuit bottoms.

He never regained consciousness and died on September 16 in the Mater Hospital.

At the opening of the inquest into his death, Mr Wheelock’s family heard that the Director of Public Prosecutions will not be taking the case any further.

Speaking outside the court following the hearing, which was adjourned, Mr Wheelock’s brother, Barry, said: “We do not believe Terence was responsible for his own death. We do not believe it was suicide.

“The DPP’s decision is not a surprise to us but it is a disgrace to the memory of my brother.

“All we want is to know what happened and we want an independent inquiry into his death.”

Mr Wheelock’s family, including his parents, Laurence and Esther, are planning poignant protests at Dáil Éireann next month to mark the dead man’s 21st birthday.

Barry, 31, continued: “Terence would have been 21 on March 23 but because we can’t present him with a key we will give it to the Minister of Justice instead.”

The family is now determined to have Mr Wheelock’s belongings returned - including clothing and the alleged ligature – to be examined by forensic laboratories in England.

During the hearing, Sean Gillane, representing the Wheelocks, accused Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and An Garda Siochana Commissioner Noel Conroy of hindering their attempts to collect his personal effects.

He said: “We have no axe to grind. We have openly indicated our wish to have these items independently examined.

“There are experts in England ready, willing and able to do these tests.

“The Wheelock family cannot afford for these experts to come here and have to make arrangements between forensic laboratories here and England for the safe transport of these items.

“The family want to assure the court the best they can that their reasons are legitimate and bona fide.”

Marion Berry, representing An Garda Siochana, said the force recognised the family’s anxiety.

She said: “The retention of personal effects for the moment was, one, concern of possible prosecution and, two, to protect the integrity of any evidence.”

She added that the DPP had confirmed there would now be no prosecution.

A police property application hearing is due to be held at Dublin District Court on March 14 if both parties do not come to an agreement before then.

Adjourning the hearing, Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell offered his sympathies and condolences to Mr Wheelock’s family.

Outside court, Barry Wheelock slammed the Gardaí for holding on to his brother’s belongings for so long.

He accused the Gardaí of illegally taking the clothes as the death had been considered a suicide.

“I personally believe some forensic evidence is on them,” he said.

“If they have nothing to hide, they should hand them over. The longer we haven’t got the clothes, the more likely they are to be forensically damaged.

“Funding these tests is not an issue yet. Even if we have to fund this, we will – we won’t be letting this go.”

The case will be mentioned again in the Coroner’s Court on March 7.

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