Stress of home invasion ‘contributed to death’ of elderly Limerick man

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

David Casey and Michael Casey both received six-and-a-quarter year prison sentence for the burglaryDavid Casey and Michael Casey both received six-and-a-quarter year prison sentences for the burglary

David Casey and Michael Casey both received six-and-a-quarter year prison sentences for the burglary

THE DEATH of an elderly man who disturbed burglars at his home was precipitated by the stress caused by the invasion, the Limerick Coroners Court has found this Wednesday. 

John O’Donoghue, 62, of Toomaline, Doon, died after collapsing in his yard after he and his sister discovered that someone had broken into their home on August 27, 2015.

Cousins Michael Casey, 34, of Clonlong halting site, and David Casey, 23, of Carragh Park, Coolock, Dublin 17, both received six-and-a-quarter prison sentence for the burglary following a determination by the Court of Appeal in April this year.

Gda William Collins, of Cappamore garda station, said that he received a phone call at around 1.30pm of suspicious activity by a black Renault Laguna in the Doon area.

He later attended Mr O’Donoghue’s home where he found his body lying on the side of the house and was “unresponsive”. First aid, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and a defibrillator were administered, the inquest was told.

With the help of local witnesses, Gda Collins later encountered the two convicted burglars who were “panting and out of breath” and were “very wet”. The two men were later arrested and detained at Henry Street garda station.

Gda Elaine O’Donovan, of Bruff garda station, called the ambulance after administering a defibrillator at the scene. Gda James Ryan, of Bruff garda station, stated that John O’Donoghue was pronounced dead at 6.15pm by Dr Patrick O’Dwyer. 

John O’Donoghue’s sister, Christina, said that she and her brother arrived at their home at around 2.30pm after travelling to Tipperary Town that day.

They both noticed a black car near the home.

She said they “knew that somebody was in the house” when they noticed their gate was open. She said that John went to get a shovel from the shed, and that “he wasn’t sure if they were going to rush him”.

After John collapsed, she rang an ambulance, and a man who “looked suspicious” in the black car was “furiously beeping” and had his “hazard lights on”. 

John’s friend Patrick Sweeney, of Liscaugh, Doon, recalled how his wife received a phone from Christina to inform them that John had collapsed on the ground after the fatal burglary. 

Mr Sweeney later identified the body to gardai at the scene.

Eircom technician William Reale who contacted gardai after seeing two men running “fairly lively” in the area. “I knew these fellas were up to no good by their actions,” he said.

State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy, who carried out a post-mortem examination on August 28, 2015, said John had collapsed and died outside his home with “gravel-type injuries to his face and left-arm”. He also suffered abrasions to his knee.

However, she said the most significant finding was that Mr O’Donoghue had an enlarged heart and “significant coronary artery disease” and that he had “increased risk of sudden collapse and death”.

She said the cause of death was left ventricular hypertrophy and coronary artery stenosis. The inquest heard that the stress of the incident would have caused an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.  

Coroner John McNamara told the jury that there was “quite a clear association between the burglary and John O’Donoghue’s death” and that it is “hard not to entangle the two of them”.

Following a three-minute deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of “natural causes precipitated by the stress over the discovery of the intruders”.

Offering his condolences to the family, Mr McNamara said: “He didn’t deserve to die in this fashion on this particular day in such tragic circumstances”.

He commended the gardai for their efforts in arresting and detaining the individuals.