A jury at Cork City Coroner’s Court has returned a narrative verdict after hearing how a man found bleeding, ranting, and raving in a neighbour’s garden suffered cardiac arrest due to excited delirium syndrome following restraint by gardaí.
Kevin Meehan, 39, a father of two who lived at 43 Dunard, Lotamore, in Mayfield, Cork, was arrested in the back garden of 13 Dunard, at around 1am on December 20, 2011, under Section 12 of the Mental Health Act. He fell ill while handcuffed in the back of a Garda van, and was rushed by ambulance to the city’s Mercy University Hospital, where he died just after 9pm that night.
Before his arrest, he had smashed a coffee table and TV screen in his own house, before using his hands to break a shed window in his neighbour’s garden, causing a large laceration to an arm.
The inquest into his death, which concluded yesterday, was told the first two gardaí to arrive at the scene tried to calm Mr Meehan, but he resisted arrest and made a bolt for the house. Gardaí said they feared for their own safety, and for the safety of the house occupants. It took five gardaí to restrain and then handcuff him, while he was lying prone on the floor. He was then placed in the back of a Garda van, with his hands cuffed behind his back, but became unresponsive within a minute.
Assistant State pathologist Dr Margot Bolstersaid while the manner of restraint was a factor in his death, it was not the cause of it. She said there are several factors involved in cases of excited delirium syndrome, including elevated body mass index; the abuse of, or withdrawal from drugs; manic episodes; and restraint by law enforcement.
In Mr Meehan’s case, she said he was overweight; traces within therapeutic ranges of antidepressants, Duloxetene and Amitriptyline, were found in his system; and he was restrained.
Although Mr Meehan had a history of alcohol binges and butane gas abuse, Dr Bolster said the postmortem showed no traces of alcohol, drugs of abuse, or butane gas in his system. She described it as a complex case and said the cause of death was cardiac arrest due to excited delirium syndrome following restraint.
Given that Mr Meehan fell ill while in custody, the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission launched an investigation. GSOC inspector, Richard Gomm, said they sent a file to the DPP in October 2014 which directed there be no prosecution. Following a review, no potential breaches of Garda discipline were identified.
After deliberating for almost 45 minutes, the jury returned a narrative verdict and opted not to make any recommendations.
Coroner Philip Comyn offered his condolences to Mr Meehan’s family, and sympathised that it took so long for the inquest to be concluded. Superintendent Michael Comyns also offered his condolences on behalf of An Garda Síochána.
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