The Department of Justice is to re-examine the Garda investigation into the 2011 death of PR executive Kate Fitzgerald, after repeated claims from her family the original case was flawed.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed her department has assigned a legal counsel to review the case, in a formal letter to Tom and Sally Fitzgerald sent on August 8.
Kate Fitzgerald’s body was found in her home in Harty Place, Dublin City, on August 23, 2011.
In a coroner’s case last year, the death of the 25-year-old PR executive and former chair of the US Democratic Party Abroad in Ireland was ruled a suicide.
However, her family do not accept the verdict and have raised a number of concerns to the gardaí, the Garda Ombudsman, and this newspaper, over how the original investigation was handled.
Ms Fitzgerald was identified as the author of an article in The Irish Times on depression, which included comments about her workplace experience, and was unknowingly published under a pseudonym two weeks after her death.
Ms Fitzgerald’s employers were later identified as the Communications Clinic, resulting in The Irish Times publishing a controversial statement apologising to the company and indicating parts of the piece were “not factual” — a statement her family rejects.
Due in part to evidence at the scene and to Ms Fitzgerald previously attending St Patrick’s Hospital, officers initially investigating the case concluded it was a suicide.
However, after subsequent questions from her family, it emerged a number of standard procedures used to rule out other potential causes of death were not followed.
These include a failure to take photographs of the scene before clothing and other belongings were removed; no examination of the cupboard in which Ms Fitzgerald is said to have killed herself; and the absence of a ligature allegedly used during her death.
Ms Fitzgerald’s family were also provided with an “unsolicited” copy of the initial coroner’s report into her death, which noted a bone in her neck that would normally be left untouched in a hanging but is often broken in a manual strangulation case, was fractured.
A Garda Ombudsman review of the case was concluded last year. However, while accepting there were flaws in how the death was examined, the review said it is unclear what impact if any this had on the case as “potential evidence” was not “properly maintained” and is now “irretrievably” lost.
In an August 8 letter to the family, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s private secretary, Chris Quattrociochi, confirmed the Department of Justice is now re-examining the case.
“The minister has established a mechanism for the independent review by counsel of certain allegations of garda misconduct, or inadequacies in the investigation of certain allegations, with a view to determining to what extent and in what manner further action may be required,” the correspondence read.
In a statement, Tom and Sally Fitzgerald said: “We are delighted that the new minister is taking steps to investigate.”
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