‘Open verdict means criminality not ruled out’

The family of Katy French have welcomed the open verdict returned at the inquest at Meath Coroner’s Court into the death of the model.

However, they claim there are still many unanswered questions about what happened in the immediate period before Ms French was brought to Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, on the morning of Dec 2, 2007.

Ms French’s mother, Janet, claimed the evidence given yesterday by the two people who were with her daughter at the time she took ill — Kieron Ducie and his then girlfriend Ann Corcoran — lacked credibility.

Both Mr Ducie and Ms Corcoran yesterday stated they wished to change the version of events which they provided in statements to gardaí shortly after Ms French’s death five years ago. The pair had initially claimed that the model had suffered several seizures in their home in Kilmessan, Co Meath, at around 8.15am on Dec 2, 2007.

However, the time of Katy’s arrival at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan was around 10.10am, even though they only lived a 16-minute drive from the hospital.

Mr Ducie and Ms Corcoran yesterday said they could not be sure what time Ms French suffered her first seizure but acknowledged they must only have left their house at around 9.50am.

Mr Ducie admitted he had driven home from Dublin where he had been socialising the night before after having drunk one and a half litres of vodka. He said he couldn’t remember exact times because he was still intoxicated the following morning.

He claimed he had made a statement to gardaí under a lot of duress.

“They were desperate for a conviction,” he said.

In his original statement, Mr Ducie declared that he didn’t want Ms French’s mother to think that he had thrown a drug party or that he was a bad person.

“I did not see Katy take any drugs in my house while I was there. I did not supply drugs to Katy French. I am totally anti-drugs,” read his original statement.

Last February, Mr Ducie of Lambertsown Manor, Kilmessan, Co Meath, was given a two-and-a-half- year, suspended jail sentence, and Ms Corcoran, aged 32, of Tolka Rd, Drumcondra, Dublin, was given a two-year suspended prison term, at Trim Circuit Court after pleading guilty to a charge of procuring cocaine for the purpose of sale or supply to another on the weekend that Katy was in their home.

However, a separate charge of recklessly supplying cocaine to the model and failing to get medical assistance against the pair was dropped.

At a separate hearing in the same court in 2010, another man, Russell Memery, aged 28, from Navan, was also given a two-and-a-half-year, suspended jail sentence for the possession of cocaine for the purpose of sale or supply.

Garda witnesses gave evidence that no drugs were found in a search of Ducie’s house at on Dec 4, 2007.

Det Insp Alf Martyn said there was also no evidence of any alcohol or vomit. Asked by the legal representative of the French family if the house had been cleaned up, Det Insp Martyn replied that it looked quite tidy.

A nurse at Our Lady’s Hospital, Sinead Gardiner, also expressed surprise that Mr Ducie’s 4x4 was “spotlessly clean” given his evidence that Ms French had suffered a seizure in the back of the vehicle.

Hospital consultant, John McDonnell, said he had not smelled any alcohol or vomit from Ms French, which was surprising given what he had been told by Mr Ducie and Ms Corcoran. Mr McDonnell said the model’s condition was inconsistent with what he had been told by the pair about what had happened her and when.

Ms French’s father, John, gave evidence that he was told by a doctor at Our Lady’s on Dec 2, 2007, that his daughter was effectively dead when brought to the hospital earlier that day.

The state pathologist, Prof Marie Cassidy, told the inquest that the cause of the model’s death was a lack of oxygen to the brain linked to the use of cocaine and a stimulant, ephedrine, which she said could be mistaken for ecstasy.

However, she said the level of cocaine found in Ms French’s body was low, and the amount of alcohol represented “a sip”.

Both Mr Ducie and Ms Corcoran maintained yesterday that Ms French had drunk around two bottles of champagne in their house as well as some vodka and Red Bull.

The coroner, Dr John Lacy, returned an open verdict on the model’s death given the gaps which remained in the evidence, while also noting there was only dubious, anecdotal evidence to suggest she had suffered seizures.

He warned the public that cocaine was “a very dangerous drug” with potentially fatal consequences even in small amounts.

Dr Lacy expressed sympathy to the French family and described Katy as an “articulate, dynamic and open young woman who certainly didn’t deserve to die like this”.

Outside the court, Ms French’s mother said the open verdict meant criminality “has not been ruled out as a factor in Katy’s death”.


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