They never knew

THE family of the woman whose emaciated body was removed from her daughter’s house a week before her death yesterday said they had been unaware of her condition.

Speaking as gardaí launched a criminal investigation into the death of Evelyn Joel, 59, Maureen and Tom Connolly said they were “totally unaware” of the circumstances in which their sister, Ms Joel, née Connolly, had suffered because they were not given access to the house at 37 Cluain Dara, Gimont, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, where Ms Joel lived.

As a consequence, “they were not aware of the conditions she had lived in”, said Wexford-based journalist Jimmy Gahan who spoke on behalf of the family. They had not seen her for several months “through no fault of their own”, Mr Gahan said. They had made efforts to speak to, see and visit her, but “all requests for information or to visit their sister were declined”.

Ms Joel died at Wexford General Hospital on January 7, one week after being removed from the house she shared with her daughter Eleanor, 31, and Eleanor’s partner, John Costan, 34, and their two young children.

A spokesperson for the Health Service Executive (HSE) said they have the power to intervene in child welfare cases at all times if they have any issue in relation to child safety. Ms Joel’s two children remain in her care.

Ms Joel, who had multiple sclerosis, was said to weigh less than four stone, was lying in her own excrement and was extremely malnourished when removed from her house on New Year’s Eve at the request of a member of Caredoc who had been summoned to the house. It is understood the medics who removed her had to “gown up” such was her condition.

Gardaí yesterday arrived at the house with a search warrant, but were allowed enter without producing it. It is understood the occupants co-operated fully with gardaí, who carried out a thorough forensic examination of the boxroom where Ms Joel had lain.

The occupants were reported to be “very upset” over what has happened. They have not yet been formally interviewed and are expected to visit Enniscorthy Garda Station in the coming days, on arrangement rather than under arrest.

The criminal investigation was launched on foot of the findings of a post mortem carried out by State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy. The findings have not been made public.

A separate inquiry has been launched by the HSE South Eastern Area to “comprehensively review service provision by the HSE to Ms Evelyn Joel”. The investigation team is external to the South East Area and will consist of three members - a public health nurse, a medical consultant and a former health board chief executive. Their names will be announced this morning.

Ms Joel is survived by her sisters Kathleen, Margaret and Maureen and her brothers Tom and Michael. A third brother, John, is deceased. She is from a well-known Enniscorthy family and is also survived by her estranged husband, Billy Joel.

Yesterday, outside 37 Cluain Dara, Maureen and Tom Connolly were visibly upset. They appealed to the media, through Mr Gahan, to give them time to grieve.

They said they were “saddened and distressed” by what had happened to their sister, and had spoken to the gardaí and the HSE, to whom they were “leaving all enquiries into the death of their sister”.

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