Alan Bourke’s family said they hope nobody has to experience the pain and devastation they have had to endure since his sudden death last May.
Speaking after Cork City Coroner’s Court heard details yesterday about Alan’s death, his older brother Tom said they are in no doubt that the hallucinogenics played a role in his death.
“Alan was not a drug user — and it is our opinion that the drugs he took were a significant contributory factor in his death,” he said.
“We would like to highlight the devastating effect that taking illegal substances can have on families. Our family is a living testament to the damage and devastation that can result from a once-off recreation drug use.
“If young people in particular could see the suffering that can be caused, not only to family members, but to a whole community, then perhaps our tragic loss may hopefully prevent other such occurrences.”
City Coroner Myra Cullinane heard how Mr Bourke, 28, a father of two from Tullamaine, Fethard, Co Tipperary, travelled with about 20 people to a friend’s stag party in Amsterdam on May 23, 2014.
A carpenter and farmer, he had been due to marry his partner, Oonagh Heeney, last November. She said he had “everything to live for”.
Oonagh told Dr Cullinane that Mr Bourke never took drugs and she believed he was pressured into experimenting with the drugs by some members of the stag party.
It is believed he took up to four magic truffle-type fungi with alcohol about 24 hours before he returned to Ireland. While magic mushrooms are illegal in the Netherlands, magic truffles, a byproduct of the mushrooms, are not.
Drug advice website MagicTruffles.com warns against taking the drug with alcohol.
Ms Heeney said that Mr Bourke’s behaviour changed radically soon after his return. He could not sleep at night, was agitated, paranoid, and saying “weird stuff”, she said.
She told the court that he said he did not deserve her, that people would be better off without him, and that he tried to call off their wedding because he said “we deserved better”.
Ms Heeney said Mr Bourke finally confessed to her that he had taken the drug during the stag weekend and felt guilty about it.
When he did not go to work on May 27, concerns mounted for him. When Ms Heeney got a text from him which read “I love you”, she phoned him immediately, and then alerted his father, Martin.
Martin and another son, Murt, rushed out and found Alan lying severely injured in a field near the family home, suffering from a gunshout wound to the head.
Despite his severe injuries, he managed to urge them to “please take care of Oonagh and the children”. He was rushed by ambulance to Clonmel General Hospital but it was decided to take him by air ambulance to Cork University Hospital for brain surgery. Despite the best efforts of medics there, he died two days later.
Margot Bolster, the assistant State pathologist, told Dr Cullinane that magic mushrooms, which can cause paranoia and hallucinations, can remain potent days after consumption because their active chemicals can be stored in body tissue. The same is the case with magic truffles.
Dr Cullinane recorded narrative verdict which states the facts and extended sympathies to Alan’s family.