The body of writer and journalist Timothy Keane, aged 39, was discovered in his bedsit in a house in the Dublin suburb of Harold’s Cross on July 9 last.
An inquest into his death at Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that he had probably died two days earlier as a result of a fat embolism caused by bone marrow from a broken humerus (the bone in the upper arm) entering into his blood and curtailing the flow of oxygen into his lungs.
State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy said the nature of the fracture that Mr Keane had sustained - which resulted in bone breaking through the skin, - had probably been caused by a heavy fall. She told the inquest that Mr Keane had probably not realised the seriousness of his injuries and the embolism could have been triggered by movements such as him getting out of bed.
Dr Cassidy said fat embolisms usually occurred between 12 and 24 hours after such injuries were sustained, which is why doctors always tried to stabilise bone fractures as soon as possible. She said unconsciousness and death would have occurred fairly rapidly after clotting took place.
Blood and urine samples on the body also revealed small quantities of both alcohol and a mild sedative.
“My feeling would have been that he had been drinking, had fallen, and got home, gone to bed and woken up in the morning and realised he had been severely injured,” Dr Cassidy speculated.
Because of some bruising to the other parts of Mr Keane’s body, including his knuckles, Dr Cassidy said she could not rule out the possibility that the dead man had been the victim of some minor assault.
Mr Justice Keane was accompanied at the inquest by his estranged wife and their other two children - Madeline and Justine - as well as Jane, Ms Keane’s daughter from a previous relationship.
Ms Keane cried softly at various stages during the 60-minute hearing while Justine and Jane left the courtroom as details of Mr Keane’s autopsy were being read out.
The judge, who retired last year, gave evidence of formally identifying his son’s body at a morgue in Marino some hours after it had been discovered. He had become aware of Tim’s death after a senior garda called to his home with his son’s passport.
Mr Justice Keane said that his last communication with Tim was when he left a message on his son’s voice-mail a few days before his body was discovered.
Garda witnesses gave evidence that Mr Keane’s body had been discovered by the landlady’s agent, Julie McCormack, at lunchtime on July 9 when she called to collect rent.
In a statement read out in court, Ms McCormack, who died last year, described Mr Keane as “a very nice, quiet fellow”.
She remarked: “He never complained. He never gave us any bother.”
It also emerged that her husband, Patrick, was the last known person to see the dead man alive after Mr Keane called to the couple’s flat, which was in the same building, on July 5 looking to see Ms McCormack.
Detective Sergeant Joseph Molloy told the inquest that Mr Keane had been found lying on his back wearing just a pair of boxer shorts mid-way between his kitchen and bedroom.
Although there was no sign of a break-in or forced entry, he said gardaí could not rule out the possibility that some of Mr Keane’s injuries had resulted from a minor assault.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned an open verdict on the basis that he could not eliminate the possibility of some type of assault. However, he pointed out that Mr Keane’s death was most probably accidental.