Inquest hears postmortem results show death was due to hanging — (The Irish Times)

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The Irish Times

Carl O’Brien

Wed, June 5, 2013

State Pathologist rules out third party involvement in death of Kate Fitzgerald

State pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy has ruled out third-party involvement in the death of former PR consultant Kate Fitzgerald.

At a resumed sitting of Dublin City Coroner’s Court today, she said postmortem results indicated Ms Fitzgerald’s death was due to hanging.

Professor Cassidy said there were no marks on her body to suggest there was any third-party involvement.

Toxicology results showed the 25-year-old had been taking prescribed medication prior to her death, including sleeping tablets and anti-depressants. She had also consumed a small amount of alcohol.

There was no evidence to suggest Ms Fitzgerald had taken an overdose and all drugs were within normal therapeutic limits, Prof Cassidy said.

Ms Fitzgerald’s family have previously expressed concern over aspects of the the Garda investigation into her death and questioned whether their daughter took her own life. A key aspect of their concern was the fact that a bone in Ms Fitzgerald neck – the hyoid bone – was broken, which often occurs in strangulation cases.

However, Prof Cassidy said it was common for this bone to be broken in hangings. She pointed to a study of 160 cases of hanging by the Office of State Pathologists in which 46 per cent of cases involved the breakage of this bone.

Among cases of strangulation, it is more common again. A study also by her office found this bone to broken in 58 per cent of cases, based on a study of 32 ligature strangulation cases.

Prof Cassidy’s conclusions were based on a postmortem report by another medical expert, Dr Muna Sabah, a consultant histopathologist at Connolly Hospital. She also concluded that Ms Fitzgerald died by hanging and did not find any evidence of bruises or marks to suggest third party involvement.

Mark Harty SC, for the Fitzgerald family, pointed out that Prof Cassidy’s conclusions were based solely on an autopsy report.

She agreed that she would have had even greater certainty in her findings if she had had access to the scene of the death and examined the ligature herself. However, Prof Cassidy added that Dr Sabah’s findings were in line with the type of cases she has previously examined.

Earlier today, two members of the Garda told the court they found Ms Fitzgerald’s body at her rented cottage at Harty Place, Dublin 8, shortly after being called to the scene at 1.40 pm on the afternoon of August 23rd, 2011.

David Healy, a member of the force at the time, said he found Ms Fitzgerald lying on a bed, with two friends, Clare Brady and Brendan Bruen, also in the room.