A 20-year-old man was found hanging in a Garda holding cell hours after he had been caught red-handed in a stolen car, an inquest heard today.
Terence Wheelock, from Sean O’Casey Avenue in Dublin’s Summerhill, died in hospital after he apparently attempted to hang himself at Store Street Garda station in the capital.
Dublin City Coroner’s Court heard Mr Wheelock was arrested along with three others on June 2, 2005 on suspicion of the unauthorised taking of a car.
Garda Tadhg O’Leary, from Fitzgibbon Street Garda station, said gardaí received a phone call from a woman on that day to report a car being brought into a back yard at Sean O’Casey Avenue and being covered with a sheet.
Garda O’Leary had a check run on the black Toyota Yaris, and the owner in Donnybrook confirmed it had been stolen.
He later spotted four young men in the car.
“Terrence Wheelock, who was known to me, jumped from the passenger seat,” he said. “All four youths ran from the car into the back door of the house.”
Gardaí confirmed all four were surrounded in the square at the front of the house by officers and gave themselves up shortly after midday.
The inquest heard Mr Wheelock and another man were brought to Store Street Garda station.
At that point, Garda O’Leary said he discovered two bench warrants were in existence for Mr Wheelock and he would have to be held to appear before the District Court.
“At the time of the arrest of the youths they were caught red-handed,” he said.
The garda said Mr Wheelock did not resist arrest and he placed the handcuffs on his hands behind his back.
He said it was normal procedure to have a prisoner handcuffed if it was possible they might run away or resist arrest.
He told the barrister for the family that he did not hear Mr Wheelock complaining of having a sore arm and the handcuffs hurting him.
Garda Steve Mulqueen, who brought Mr Wheelock to the Garda station, said: “Considering he was arrested he seemed fine to me. He wasn’t very unhappy, he wasn’t very upset.”
Gda Mulqueen requested Mr Wheelock to remove his shirt, runners, tracksuit bottoms to check if he had any items in his possession which could be used for self-harm. The inquest heard his mobile phone was taken and his runners were left outside the door of his cell.
Gda Linda Brosnan, who was in charge of the prisoners in the holding cells, said she believed the alarm bells from the cells were functioning as they had been ringing from a number of cells all morning. She said she could not recall Mr Wheelock ringing the bell in his cell.
Dr Farrell queried whether there was any specific procedure for the removal of cords from the tracksuit bottoms of people in cells.
“If you feel they are a danger to themselves or others then you go to extremes and leave them in their boxers,” Gda Brosnan said. “But they are generally left with t-shirt and trousers on.”
Kieran Bisset, a fire brigade member, said a number of gardaí were performing CPR on the unconscious man when they were called after 2.30pm.
“There was an obvious ligature mark around the front of his neck,” he said, adding it was deep and previous experience would indicate it was from a cord or a shoelace.
Mr Wheelock’s father, Lawrence Wheelock, who was accompanied in court by a large group of relatives and friends, identified him in Dublin’s Mater Hospital more than three months later on September 16, 2005 when he died having failed to regain consciousness.
He told the inquest his son had never suffered depression or indicated he wanted to harm himself.
The inquest, which was adjourned until 11am tomorrow, is expected to hear evidence from a number of other gardaí and State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy.