GERRY’S STRUGGLE

IN death, as in life, Gerry Ryan has continued to with his unique talent for capture media headlines.

Yesterday, it emerged that cocaine was the likely cause of a sudden and fatal heartbeat change which Ryan suffered on April 30 last.

The premature end of the 53-year-old broadcaster was further clouded in tragedy with the revelation that he had experienced severe stress in his final months.

Ryan’s partner Melanie Verwoerd told Dublin City Coroner’s Court that extreme pressure over RTÉ, work, his separation from his wife Morah and financial problems had taken its toll on the presenter.

He had complained of heart palpitations, dizziness, chest pains, insomnia, stomach cramps, vomiting bouts and general stress in the months before his death but particularly in the last two weeks of his life. Without revealing their source, Ms Verwoerd said Ryan had also regularly been disturbed at night by aggressive texts and calls.

“He would basically go grey,” she said.

She recalled how Ryan had confided his health fears to his friend Marian Finucane a few days before he died but he managed to disguise his true feelings outwardly because he was “a showman”.

Ms Verwoerd, the executive director of Unicef Ireland, also gave evidence of finding her partner’s body half-slumped out of his bed after breaking into his apartment at Leeson Street Upper when he failed to return any of her 14 calls.

The inquest heard that low trace levels of cocaine were found during toxicology tests on urine samples taken from Ryan’s body, while pathologist Dr Eamon Leen said evidence of scarring around the deceased’s heart may have been caused by previous use of the drug.

Test results also showed evidence of a bulking agent commonly added to pure cocaine as well as alcohol levels just over twice the legal drink-driving limit.

Dublin city coroner Dr Brian Farrell returned a verdict of misadventure.

Ms Verwoerd told the inquest she had insisted that Ryan would not use drugs when their relationship began in mid-2008.

“I made it very clear. There would be no second chance. Gerry made a solemn promise,” said Ms Verwoerd. She expressed confidence that he had kept that promise until the night he died.

Ryan’s estranged wife Morah gave brief evidence of formally identifying her husband’s body at the City Mortuary in Marino on the day after his death. She was accompanied to the inquest by just one of the couple’s five children, her eldest son Rex, and her brother-in-law Mano.

On the evening before his death, Ryan indulged in his well-known fondness for fine food and drink. Friends recalled yesterday how he appeared in good form before leaving a restaurant at 10.45pm.

However, just over one hour later, Ryan phoned Alice O’Sullivan, the series producer of his daily radio show, to say he was unwell.

In a statement issued last night, RTÉ again expressed its sadness at Ryan’s death and expressed its sympathy to his family and Ms Verwoerd. However, it made no reference to the fact that Ms Verwoerd had cited a new sickness policy at the station as a source of stress for the broadcaster.

MELANIE VERWOERD STATEMENT

TODAY was a horrendously difficult day for everyone. I will never find the words to describe the pain of listening to the details of the autopsy and last hours of the man I loved. This pain was made all the harder by the result of the autopsy and toxicology report, which came as a huge shock to me.

Gerry knew how strongly I felt against drugs and had made me a promise at the beginning of our relationship that he would not use any drugs. As far as I know that is a promise that he kept for two years and until the night of his death.

I had not seen Gerry during his last day and was not with him on the night of his death. So I probably will never know exactly what happened or why. What I do know is that Gerry was a warm, caring and generous man who was under huge stress, personally, professionally and financially.

I have been left totally devastated by the loss of my partner and now the outcome of this inquest. But the Gerry I want to remember is the person who brought great joy and inspiration to so many people throughout this country and who holds a special place in our hearts.

I miss him dearly.

MORAH RYAN STATEMENT

ON behalf of our children (Lottie, Rex, Bonnie, Elliott and Babs), Gerard’s brothers Mano and Michael, and myself, I wish to say that we are glad that today is now over.

For all those who loved Gerard, the past few months, as for anyone who has lost a loved one, have been very difficult.

Our wish is that Gerard’s memory will be left to our children now, as it should be, for a dad in a million who lived for them.

He lived life to the full; it made him who he was. He loved us and we loved him. We are proud to be his family.

In these difficult times for so many families in our country, we want to take this opportunity to say to anyone under stress, or with pressure or worries of any kind, to reach out for personal support and professional help.

Gerard was a communicator and yet he too struggled.

If today is to mean something, it is to offer encouragement. If it is to have a message it is that there is always someone to share your problem with, someone to offer professional advice and someone to shine light into your life when you need it most. There is always someone to ask.

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