Man died from ruptured oesophagus, not spider bite

Jeanne Kennedy: Claimed husband died from poison.

A man whose death was reported by his family to be linked to a spider bite in fact died from a ruptured oesophagus, an inquest heard.

Following the death of John Francis Kennedy, aged 48, of Avoncore Place, Midleton, Co Cork, his widow had told how he became unwell and died last summer as a result of a venomous spider bite.

However, pathologist Nollaig Parfrey yesterday told Cork City Coroners Court that he died from a ruptured oesophagus, ag-ainst a background of bleeding veins, secondary to alcohol cirrhosis.

Asked by coroner Myra Cullinane if the death was related to a spider bite, Prof Parfrey replied: “No”.

Mrs Kennedy also asked Prof Parfrey if he had investigated the bite. “I took it into account but could find no evidence,” he said.

Mr Kennedy died on July 18. In media reports which followed, his wife Jeanne claimed he had been bitten by a spider in January 2013.

She said her husband had two holes in his neck as a result of a spider bite, and the spider was later found in a child’s schoolbag which was full of cobwebs.

“He had two marks on his neck and I have a photo of them. We found the spider two weeks later. It was in my daughter’s schoolbag,” said Mrs Kennedy.

“What else could cause two bite marks there? They were like two little holes.

“He felt it — a bite — and then he flicked it and he started bleeding then.

“It was a black spider with a weird red back. We found it in the schoolbag after and there were loads of cobwebs in the bag.”

Mr Kennedy was admitted to Mercy University Hospital, Cork in a critically unwell condition on July 18. He had been bleeding since the previous day and was vomiting blood.

Upon his arrival at MUH, medics battled to save Mr Kennedy, who had a previous diagnosis of liver disease. Doctors tried for two hours to save Mr Kennedy’s life but were unable to stabilise him and he died at 5.45am.

Consultant hepatobiliary surgeon Chriostoir O’Sulleabhain said doctors were unable to identify the source of the blood loss due to the extent of the bleeding.

“The anatomy was completely distorted,” he said.

As part of the inquest process, consultant of infectious diseases Mary Horgan was asked for her opinion. In a report, she stated that symptoms relating to toxic spider bites usually surfaced within days, not months.

Extending her sympathies to the family, Dr Cullinane returned a verdict of misadventure.


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