Coroner warns of dangers of drug use

The Coroner examining the death of a 20-year-old local man following a two day drinking and drugs binge, has said his death highlights the “grave dangers of taking so-called recreational drugs”.

Derry Coroner’s court heard today (Tuesday) how Sean McMonagle of 42 Carranbane Walk, was found dead in bed at his girlfriend’s flat at Coshowen on the morning of December 27 last.

The court was told that at the time of his death Mr McMonagle had taken a number of legal and illegal substances, including two kinds of Ecstacy (MDMA and MDA) and Mephodrone.

The 20 year old was also found to have ingested unknown quantities of diazepam, Hydrocodeine, codeine and had traces of cannabis in his system which indicated previous use of the class b drug.

A report by state pathologist Jack Crane stated that it was hard to determine the dosage of drugs in Mr McMonagle’s body but that dose was not necessarily relevant as any amount of so-called recreational drugs can cause undetermined damage, and that the combination of different kinds of drugs could have started a chain reaction.

He stated that it was his belief that the stimulant effect of the MDMA, MDA and Mephodrone combined were most likely responsible for the deceased’s death.

The court heard evidence from a number of witnesses, including Constable James Deeney, who was called by ambulance staff after they discovered Mr McMonagle had died.

Constable Deeney said when he arrived at the scene Mr McMonagle was in the bedroom but on the floor, wrapped in a duvet and there was no obvious sign of injury. Paramedics at the scene had already attempted CPR but were unable to revive the deceased.

Constable Deeney told the court that Ciara Canning, Mr McMonagle’s girlfriend, had been unable to wake him when she had returned from a party earlier that morning and had called an ambulance. He said Ms Canning was exceptionally distressed but had told him she and Mr McMonagle, along with several others, had been partying since Christmas.

He added that along with two other police officers he had searched the flat and surrounding area for any sign of any illicit substances but did not find any.

Mr McMonagle’s brother Adam told the court he had gone with his brother to Ms Canning’s home on the evening of December 26 where he had seen his brother take a number of ecstacy tablets and “blue valiums”. He said he saw an older woman at the party offer Mr McMonagle some ‘Lycra’ which he described as a white powder, laid out in lines which his brother snorted through a rolled up note.

He said that after snorting one line of the powder his brother went to lie down. He went to wake his brother later and they shared a cigarette before his brother returned to the kitchen, while unsteady on his feet, to snort more of the ‘Lycra’. He said his brother then went back to bed - and had been sleeping when he left the flat.

Mr McMonagle’s cousin Stephen told the court that he had also been with his cousin and that all the people present in Ms Canning’s flat had consumed “large quantities” of drugs. He told the court he had gone home at 11pm as he had to work the following day and had received two text messages to his phone at around 9am from Ms Canning. The first stated “Ring me ASAP” and the second said “Come up. There is something wrong”. He said he later took a call from his granny who told him that Mr McMonagle had died.

He said he had “no doubt at all” that his cousin would not have taken a deliberate overdose and that he himself had seen the devastating effects of his cousin’s death and had turned his life around since.

A third witness, Elaine Bradley, said she had been at the party but had not been drinking or taking drugs and had stayed up to clean after Mr McMonagle and his girlfriend had gone to bed. She told the court she had gone to make a cup of tea at around 5am and had woken Ms Canning to come with her.

The pair had then gone onto a party before returning to the flat at 10.45, where they had discovered Mr McMonagle. Ms Bradley said she knew to look at him that “something was seriously wrong” as his face had turned a blueish colour.

The Coroner Ms Suzanne Anderson recorded a verdict of accidental death, through poisoning by MDMA, MDA and mephodrone. She said she was satisfied that he had in no way intended to take his own life.