THE mother of a troubled teenager who was found dead in a derelict house a week after he went missing from care has pleaded with the Minister for Children to review the way vulnerable children are cared for by the state.
An inquest into his death has heard how the body of Christopher O’Driscoll, 17, of no fixed abode, was found clutching a set of rosary beads in the front room of a filthy and vacant house on the northside of Cork city on Friday, May 8, 2009.
He had been booked into a city hotel by a social worker a week previously. The social worker told the inquest she made the decision after she ran out of accommodation options for the teenager.
He had been dead in the house for two days, the inquest established.
Christopher’s distraught mother, Miriam Hayes, said her son went through hell after his sister, Celina, died of an overdose the previous year.
He became addicted to heroin and benzodiazapanes, and she said the system began to fail him from that point.
“They tried every option with him. They all broke down,” she said.
“When his sister died, he went downhill and they lost interest in him. They just washed their hands of him.”
She pleaded with Children’s Minister Barry Andrews to change the system.
“They shouldn’t be putting children into B&Bs. They should have support for kids that are in care that have drug problems and they should have a law to allow these children to be put somewhere — not a prison system but some kind of secure care system,” she said.
Her sister, Elizabeth Coffey, wept as she said the system failed her nephew.
Yesterday’s inquest heard how in the week before his death, Christopher had attacked staff and smashed up rooms in Pathways, a HSE shelter for homeless teens and had also been refused entry to B&Bs used by the HSE for emergency accommodation because of his behaviour.
He refused several offers of help and discharged himself from the Mercy University Hospital, against medical advice, despite suffering from pneumonia.
On Friday, May 1, 2009, the bank holiday weekend, social worker Carmel Walsh had booked Christopher into Jurys Inn for five nights because his social care team had run out of accommodation options.
“When you run out of options, you look for anything. You’re in a crisis,” Ms Walsh said.
Hotel staff were not told Christopher was in the care of the HSE and he was ejected in the early hours of Saturday for bringing an unregistered guest back to his room.
Ms Walsh said she searched for him without success on Saturday and Sunday but a missing person’s report was never filed with the gardaí.
The inquest heard how on May 6, a home help worker reported seeing a body lying in the front room of a derelict house at 2 Strowan Villas on Gardiner’s Hill.
But when ambulance workers and gardaí arrived, they found two people upstairs who did not need medical attention and left the scene.
However, two days later, another man reported finding a body in the front room. Gardaí went to the scene again and found Christopher’s lifeless body.
Assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said the primary cause of death was severe pneumonia but a cocktail of drugs — including heroin, methadone and benzodiazapanes — played a significant role.
Some of Christopher’s social care team wiped away tears as Dr Bolster read her evidence.
The jury recorded a verdict of death due to misadventure.
The case has been notified to the Independent Review Group into Child Deaths established by Mr Andrews earlier this year.
The HSE last night expressed its condolences and said it did not wish to pre-empt the findings of the review group by commenting further.
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