Cork City coroner Philip Comyn yesterday returned a verdict of misadventure after the inquest into the death of Jennifer Dennehy, 30, originally from the Blackrock area of Cork City but who had been sleeping in a tent for several weeks before her death.
She was found unresponsive by her friend, Ian Drummey, at around 11am on September 1 last in the tent pitched in Gilabbey Park, off the Western Rd, on the city’s southside.
A postmortem examination confirmed she died from polydrug toxicity following the ingestion of high levels of central nervous system depressants — pregabalin, methadone, and tramadol.
The assistant State pathologist, Dr Margot Bolster, said she would have slipped into a coma and died.
The inquest heard Ms Dennehy had struggled with mental health issues and addiction to Nurofen Plus; had been treated in Arbour House; had been admitted to a psychiatric facility in May 2017; and been engaged with the mental health services afterwards.
Mr Drummey said she was in good spirits the night before her death and was planning to seek help again for her addiction issues. She had been renting a flat on the Western Rd and befriended Mr Drummey, who had been couch-surfing and sleeping in a tent around the city, before her rent allowance was stopped and she fell behind in her rent payments.
In a statement read at the inquest, landlord Sean Flynn said when she missed two months’ rent, he gave her a month’s notice.
Mr Drummey said the couple were sleeping in a tent in various locations around the city. On the night before her death, they smoked a few joints in the tent in Gilabbey Park and watched movies on their phones. He said she was unresponsive when he woke at 11am.
“I shook her, tilted her face, and saw that her lips were blue,” he said.
He ran to a nearby house to raise the alarm, and went back to the tent and cradled Ms Dennehy’s head in his lap.
Gardaí arrived and Ms Dennehy was pronounced dead at the scene at 12.50pm.
Dr Bolster said there was no evidence of significant trauma or natural disease, and no traces of alcohol in Ms Dennehy’s system.
Mr Comyn said a verdict of misadventure was appropriate and he offered sympathies to Ms Dennehy’s family.
“It is sad to reflect that in this day and age, someone could die in such circumstances. There is very little one can say to offer consolation to Ms Dennehy’s family but they should bear in mind the comments of Dr Bolster, that death would have been painless,” he said.
Solicitor Martin Harvey, for the family, thanked the gardaí and emergency services for their kindness, and said the family wanted privacy to grieve.
Christina Chalmers, of Helping Cork’s Homeless, said they have been supporting Mr Drummey in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation. She said he has re-established connections with his family, and hopes to be able to move into a more stable environment next month.