Open verdict returned at Katy French inquest

The model Katy French only had a low amount of cocaine and alcohol in her body when she died, an inquest has heard.

Open verdict returned at Katy French inquest

The model Katy French only had a low amount of cocaine and alcohol in her body when she died, an inquest has heard.

State pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy told the hearing in Trim courthouse, Co Meath, tests showed the 24-year-old had had a “sip” of alcohol and very little drugs or agents.

The cause of death was given as hypoxic ischemic brain injury – when the brain was starved of oxygen – due to cocaine and ephedrine, a substance she said can be mistaken for ecstasy.

Ms French died in hospital on December 6, 2007, four days after she collapsed at a house in Lambertstown Manor, Kilmessan, Co Meath.

The Swiss-born model suffered six cardiac arrests in accident and emergency before she was transferred to intensive care, where she died days after celebrating her birthday.

Meath coroner John Lacy recorded an open verdict.

Former couple Kieron Ducie and Ann Corcoran, who gave evidence at the hearing, were previously handed respective two-and-a-half and two-year suspended sentences for arranging a drug deal the weekend the socialite collapsed at their home.

The pair denied there was a 90-minute gap between when they said they found the model – face down on a bedroom floor, fitting, with her head back and arms and legs outstretched – and arriving at a nearby hospital, where staff were told she had been drinking champagne, vodka and red bull but not seen taking drugs.

They told Mr Lacy that they “got their times wrong” in initial statements, with Ducie accusing gardai of trying to secure a conviction when probing the case.

John McGuigan, who is representing the French family, argued no one knows what exactly happened in the home besides the couple, whose evidence the family dismisses.

The model's parents John and Janet and sister Jill sat through graphic post-mortem evidence.

The coroner said he had no option to record an open verdict given the “gaps” left from the morning of Ms French’s death and the low levels of drugs and cocaine in her system.

Mr Lacy said Ms French had been an articulate, dynamic young person who did not deserve to die in the way she did.

“Nothing can take away the agony and grief the French family have gone through since Katy’s death,” he said.

“There are gaps in evidence, there are unanswered questions, but it is not the function of the inquest to get those answers.”

The coroner said he did not realise that a small amount of drugs could result in a death.

“Cocaine is a very dangerous drug,” he said.

“Not alone is it dangerous to take it, if one, and I’m not implying anything to Katy, if I’m taking cocaine and I give it up I might not realise that if I do have a relapse and take a very small quantity it can have very tragic consequences.”

Prof Cassidy said it is not uncommon for a trivial amount of drugs to have serious consequences.

Outside the courthouse the model’s mother welcomed the open verdict.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions, particularly about what happened before Katy was brought to the hospital,” she said, flanked by her husband and daughter.

Mrs French said there were gaps in the evidence from Ducie and Corcoran.

“There was no real evidence of alcohol and no evidence of seizures. The level of cocaine was noted as being very low,” she said.

Earlier, during cross examination, Mr McGuigan told Corcoran that she may have been a friend to Ms French in life but certainly not in her death.

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