The acting coroner for north Mayo, Dr Eleanor Fitzgearld, recorded a verdict of accidental death due to gross misadventure caused by massive crush injuries in the case of John Gaughan, Glosh, Blacksod, Belmullet, Co Mayo. The jury in the case in giving their verdict stated that “After considering the statements it was an accidental death of the most unfortunate circumstances and the injuries received by the victim were in accordance with the evidence of the pathologist.”
The inquest heard evidence from a number of people, including State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy. Dr Cassidy told the court that she examined the body of Mr Gaughan on March 12 2007 at Mayo General Hospital and carried out an autopsy that revealed that he had suffered massive crush injuries including two full splits across the back left side of his head, but no fractures to the skull. The right side of his chest had caved in due to crushing, there was a fracture of his spine and multiple rib fractures which in turn caused the puncturing of a lung and lacerations on the back of his liver. There were also numerous grazes on his body and face. She also stated that there were bruises on his shins which were in accordance with the possibility that the victim was hit by a slow moving vehicle. She also told the inquest that the victim had a concentration of 249 mgs of alcohol per 100 ml of blood in his system. She concluded that the Mr Gaughan died from the crush injuries very shortly after they happened and that he would have been unconscious after the incident.
Michael Jed Keane of Glosh, Blacksod, Belmullet admitted to the inquest that he caused the injuries to Mr Gaughan, but he retracted part of his second statement where he said that he knew he had reversed over him in his van and panicked and driven off. In his first statement, Keane said that he had been out with his girlfriend in Ballina and Crossmolina the previous two nights and on Saturday March 10 he woke up with a pain in his chest. He rang Westdoc to see a doctor, but no one showed up when he was supposed to meet them. He then went into the Loft Pub in Ballina and had a pint and a brandy, from there he went on to a pub in Belmullet where he had a few more drinks and later on to the pub in Binghamstown where he met Mr Gaughan and had some more drinks before bringing him home between 9pm and 9.30pm.
His statement continued that he drove up the driveway and nudged Mr Gaughan to let him know that he was at his house. Mr Gaughan got out of the van and went towards his own van and opened the front door. Keane said he thought that he had the key of the house in there and he waited until he saw the lights go off at the front of the house, which he thought meant that Mr Gaughan had gone inside. He then stated that he reversed the van and drove to his grandmother’s house where he stayed for the night. He later got a call to ask did he know what had happened to Mr Gaughan.
In the second cautioned statement the he made to gardaí, Keane said that after he dropped Mr Gaughan off, as he reversed the van, he felt the wheels rise as if they went over something and he had to throttle the van to get it to move off. He said he knew something bad had happened and he panicked because he thought that no one would believe him it was and accident. However at the inquest he stated that he only made that statement to get out of the Garda station and that the gardaí were making things fit together and he wanted it over, because he could see how upsetting it was on his mother. He also stated that he wanted to make it clear that he would never knowingly leave someone, especially a friend, to die like that. He also accepted that he must have ran over Mr Gaughan, but remembers nothing about it at all.
The inquest was also given a forensic report that showed that DNA found on the diesel tank of the van matched a sample taken from Mr Gaughan, and that the different pools of blood found on the driveway indicated that Mr Gaughan was dragged under the van for a number of feet.
Willie Meenhan, a neighbour of Mr Gaughan’s, said he received a phone call from another neighbour Michael Gerard Keane on the morning of March 11 to check on Mr Gaughan, because as he drove by his house he thought he saw him lying in the driveway. Meenhan’s statement went on to say that he checked the body and knew he was dead and he went back to his house and called 999 for an ambulance and the gardaí.
In his statement Garda Quigley outlined that when more gardaí arrived at the scene he went to the bottom of the road to divert traffic, and at about 1.15pm Michael Jed Keane drove up to him in his mother’s car and told him that he had dropped Mr Gaughan home the night previously, to which Garda Quigley told him that they would be looking to speak to him later. At 3.20pm that day Mr Keane arrived back at the scene and asked to speak to Dective Garda Brett who arranged to interview him later that day in relation to the incident.