Jury finds Wheelock took his own life

A verdict of suicide has been returned at the inquest into the death of Terence Wheelock today.

A verdict of suicide has been returned at the inquest into the death of Terence Wheelock today.

The Dublin City Coroner is now to write to Garda management urging sweeping reforms of the way suspects are detained in custody.

Dr Brian Farrell said he would make four recommendations following the death of Terence Wheelock who hanged himself in a cell in the capital’s Store Street Garda Station.

The 20-year-old was found near dead in June 2005 with the cord of his tracksuit bottoms wrapped around his neck.

He slipped into a coma and died three months later in the Mater Hospital.

At an inquest into his death a jury returned a majority 4-3 decision that he died by suicide.

Around a dozen members of the Wheelock family including brother Larry who has campaigned tirelessly for an independent inquiry into the death were visibly upset when the jury’s decision was read out.

Terence’s mother Esther wept inconsolably outside the coroner’s office.

The seven jurors offered four recommendations which Dr Farrell said he would pass on to gardaí.

CCTV should be fitted in all garda stations as soon as possible to monitor all areas where suspects maybe kept. At present there are only pilot projects in stations in Dublin.

They also recommended that with immediate effect suspects being detained should be checked every 15 minutes regardless of their physical or mental state when brought to the station.

The jury said prisoners should also be given disposable clothing when placed in cells and they ask that external independent health and safety officers be allowed to carry out audits of stations every year.

Outside the coroner’s court Larry Wheelock said the events of the last two years had been extremely painful for the whole family.

“We will gather our thoughts and consider where we will go from here, but it’s far from over,” he said.

Mr Wheelock claimed there is additional information regarding the events around his brother’s death which were not discussed during the inquest.

“It’s a hard time for the family, we can take comfort from the fact that three people did not believe what was shoved down their neck in the courtroom,” he said.

“It’s very painful, it will always be very painful, but we are a close family.

“We are there for each other as Terence is as well we will always be there for each other.”

Several witnesses told the inquest Mr Wheelock was in good spirits when he was arrested along with three friends for car theft and taken to Store Street.

Gardaí said he was calm and not agitated while Simon Doherty, one of those arrested, described him as “nowhere near suicidal”.

The family insisted they reject the jury’s finding that Mr Wheelock died by suicide.

The seven-strong jury reached a majority decision after almost two hours of deliberation.

However, only four of them could agree on how Mr Wheelock died after they told the Coroner they were unable to reach a unanimous decision.

The Wheelock family have insisted all along that Terence was abused while in custody but the inquest heard there was no third party involvement in his death.

The 20-year-old from the Summerhill area had traces of cannabis and sleeping tablets in his system when admitted to hospital.

He also had fresh bruises across his knuckles, cuts and abrasions on his hands, his legs were bruised and his tracksuit was stained with blood.

But State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said she could not draw any conclusions from these minor injuries. She said they did not contribute to his death but added they required further explanation.

Medical experts suggested during the five days of hearings that the blood on Mr Wheelock’s clothes was a result of treatment he underwent in hospital.

The inquest also heard mistakes were made by gardaí involved in Mr Wheelock’s detention.

The custody record was wrong. A Garda who searched Mr Wheelock was not mentioned on the sheet and errors were also made in recording times Mr Wheelock was checked.

The inquest also heard an alarm light indicator to notify officers of emergencies in the cells was broken.

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