Dad searched day and night when son went missing - Coroner’s court told

editorial image

Coleraine’s coroner’s court has heard how the father of a local man who was found dead in Church Road after succumbing to hypothermia, had searched night and day for his son.

At the inquest into the death of William Joseph O’Connor (48), held this morning, the court was told how the deceased, from Slaughtmanus Road, had been found lying on his back with his trousers at his knees and his shoes missing.

Dr James Linus who carried out the post mortem revealed how Mr O’Connor had injuries consistent with him crawling about in a confused state and added that his state of undress was most likely a result of his hypothermia and his body giving him the false perception that he was too warm.

He also revealed that at the time of his death Mr. O’Connor had no drugs or alcohol in his system.

The court heard from witness Peter Chapman who said he had received quite a shock when he found Mr O’Connor’s body near a play park on November 10 2013.

Detective Constable Gibbons from the PSNI told the court that police had no evidence to suggest anything other than hypothermia caused Mr O’Connor’s injuries.

Dr Seosamh McCauley, a locum doctor at Altnagelvin Hospital told the court he had treated the deceased five days prior to his death.

The court heard that at the time Mr O’Connor had been “feeling low.”

In his statement Dr McCauley revealed how Mr O’Connor had told him he had tried to hang himself with a wet shirt days earlier and that he had had a row with his parents, left home and was sleeping rough.

His case at that time was referred to the community psychiatric team.

Cormac Jackson, a community mental health nurse revealed how he had spoken to Mr O’Connor on November 5, 2013 and had offered to contact his family however Mr O’Connor said that he would consider doing this himself.

Martin Carton, team manager at the Western Trust’s Psychosexual service said Mr. O’Connor had missed a number of appointments with the team, however on the last appointment he attended before he died had talked of plans to get a place of his own and his own car.

“He (O’Connor) had appointments he didn’t attend due to relapses with alcohol,” said Mr. Carton. “He managed his suicidal thoughts on a day to day basis but when he had alcohol they became intense.

“He had a lack of insight into his problems and management of his problems.

“He aspired for better family relations and difficulties at home seemed to be a catalyst for his misuse of alcohol. The difficulty was that although he had insight during his sessions, when he left the session that insight became less and less.”

A member of the family speaking from the public gallery said that Mr O’Connor was a man who never had any problems at home.

“When he went missing and would go on the drink for a few weeks, Willie (his father) searched night and day for him. His family were fully supportive of him during his turbulent times. I want that put on record.”

Coroner John Lecky said that the man had hit the nail on the head.

“His (the deceased’s) perception was often not the reality,” said Mr Lecky.

He recorded Mr O’Connor’s death as being caused by hypothermia.

He added: This is a sad picture of a man who had a lot of problems and it’s possible there was a solution to them but he did not have sufficient insight to address them, when this is lacking the solution is elusive.”