Man declined help before killing baby nephew

AN EXPERT group has called for immediate action to ensure the health system tracks seriously disturbed persons like David Brennan who murdered his baby nephew hours after he refused to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Months before the horrific murder, the Brennan family had been trying to get help for his growing psychosis. He was offered appointments but did not take them up.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Brennan of Marsh Road, Drogheda, Co Louth, took the sleeping toddler Jake, to a nearby quarry. There he choked the child and bound his body before dropping him from a railway line into the water below.

In the Central Criminal Court last January the 20-year-old Louth man was found guilty but insane and ordered to be detained in the Central Mental Hospital for an indefinite period.

The North Eastern Health Board established a review group to examine any implications arising from the contacts Brennan had with their services.

The report, however, makes no criticism of the hospital procedure on the night in February 2000 when Brennan’s family presented him to staff at St Brigid’s psychiatric hospital in Ardee, Co Louth.

Hours before the killing, Brennan was seen by the hospital’s former register, Dr MS Das, who offered him voluntary admission. When he refused he was prescribed medication and advised to return the next week. Six hours later Brennan killed his sister’s son.

What the report does criticise is the unacceptable delays for patients getting psychiatric treatment in the south Louth area and is somewhat critical of procedural aspects of the handling of the case.

In particular, it recommends that each referral should be date stamped, recorded when received and referred to the appropriate sector team to facilitate “responsive action” at community level.

The report says there should also be formal communication between acute and sector services to provide immediate follow up in the community.

It also advises new refer rals be screened and prioritised In particular it says the health board must have a policy o ensure that when an adverse event occurs a formal review is undertaken by the mental health services and support given to the families concerned.

The Brennans, who are considering taking legal action against the State, have claimed they had never been contacted by the mental health services or offered support.

The report was compiled by a three-person group, led by a corporate analyst with the Western Health Board, Bernard Haddigan.

The other members were a consultant psychiatrist from the Mid Western Health Board, Dr Susan Finnerty and a senior executive

officer in the North Eastern Health Board, Jim Sherry.

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