Two women in Ryan’s life united at hearing

SEPARATED by the full width of the front row at Dublin Coroner’s Court, the two women in Gerry Ryan’s life were united yesterday through their shared love of the 2FM broadcaster and the dramatic circumstances of his death.

It was the first occasion that Ryan’s estranged wife, Morah and his partner, Melanie Verwoerd had been together since the late presenter’s funeral last May — one that would also mark the final chapter of the RTÉ star’s flamboyant career.

A large crowd of photographers had gathered outside the red-brick building on Store Street from an early hour, almost pushing out onto the nearby Luas line such were their number, as media interest in Ryan’s inquest reached fever pitch.

Inside, the sedate, oak-panelled courtroom was dominated by the presence of more than 30 journalists who clearly outnumbered the various groups of friends of the late RTÉ presenter sitting in the public seating area.

Dressed all in black, Ms Ryan removed a pair of sunglasses before entering the building and taking a seat in the far corner of the courtroom. She was accompanied by her eldest son, Rex, and brother-in- law, Mano, and a number of other relatives.

Minutes later, Ms Verwoerd, also wearing a black dress, covered by a purple wrap, entered the room and immediately made her way over to Ms Ryan as the two woman shook hands and exchanged a few brief words. Ms Verwoerd gave Rex a warm embrace before taking a place at the opposite end of the front row where she sat accompanied by two female companions.

As the evidence unfolded, Morah clutched a handkerchief in one hand as her son offered a reassuring hold to her other arm, while Melanie sipped regularly and nervously from a large bottle of water. Both women struggled to maintain a brave face throughout the three-hour hearing as they were clearly distressed at certain details about Ryan’s health.

In that respect, they mirrored the evidence which emerged of the private grief which Ryan himself was suffering in his final weeks while still appearing outwardly upbeat to many of his friends and the public.

For Melanie, the revelation that Ryan had taken cocaine shortly before his death came as a blow as she recalled how she had set “a ground rule” before embarking on a relationship with him that he wouldn’t use illegal drugs.

In a clear voice, she outlined how Ryan had suffered enormous stress as a result of a combination of his work at RTÉ, financial problems and his separation from Morah, but had managed to conceal it from all but a few close associates, which included broadcaster, Marian Finucane, because he was “a showman”.

But in his own words, he had confided to her in the week of his death that he felt “totally banjaxed”.

After leaving the witness box, Ms Verwoerd hurried out of the courtroom as she became overcome with emotion, returning a few minutes later.

However, Ms Verwoerd visibly withered and sobbed quietly, leaning into the courtroom wall as pathologist, Dr Eamon Leen, testified that cocaine was the “likely trigger” which caused a fatal change in Ryan’s heartbeat.

The expert, who carried out an autopsy on the late broadcaster, also said scarring to his heart could have been caused by previous use of the drug.

In the circumstances, it was no surprise that Dublin City Coroner, Dr Brian Farrell, returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

Outside the courtroom, both women posed briefly but separately for photographers but declined to comment on the proceedings. Instead, they released statements through representatives who had accompanied them to the hearing.

Morah’s was clearly prepared in advance with emphasis on how Ryan’s memory should be left to their children and how he had lived life to the full.

In contrast, Melanie’s was handwritten and photocopied in the space of a few minutes as she explained the pain of hearing the details of the autopsy results.

While the evidence will do little to dispel the suspicion that cocaine is widely used in media and showbiz circles, it was also clear from both yesterday’s inquest and the reaction to his death last April that Ryan was a larger-than-life character who loved and was loved in equal measures. And not just by two strong women.

Picture: Gerry Ryan's partner Melanie Verwoerd (left) leaving the inquest into his death at Dublin Coroner's Court (PA)

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