Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price-Rea died as a result of the toxic effect of a mix of prescribed sedative and anti-depressant medications, an inquest has heard.
Ms Price-Rea (62) was found dead in bed by her son at their home at St Margaret’s Road in Malahide, Co Dublin on January 23, 2013.
She achieved public notoriety as a member of the Provisional IRA unit which carried out the bombing of the Old Bailey in London in 1973. Along with her sister Marian Price, she was convicted and jailed for her involvement in the attack. She is the ex-wife of actor Stephen Rea, with whom she had two sons, Danny and Oscar Rea.
In the months before her death, Ms Price-Rea was engulfed in controversy over allegations made in interviews with Boston College in the US that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had ordered the IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville, an accusation he has repeatedly denied.
Dublin Coroner’s Court heard that Danny Rea discovered his mother’s body after returning home from college at 9pm on the evening of January 23. He found her lying in bed. “She wasn’t breathing and wasn’t moving. I knew straight away that she was dead,” he said.
Ms Price-Rea was an alcoholic. Mr Rea told Dublin Coroner’s Court that three days before her death she had been drinking and was admitted to Beaumont Hospital following a fall down the stairs. She had discharged herself within a few hours and returned home where she continued to drink and take valium, he said. She continued drinking the following day and when he left the house on the morning of her death, she was lying on the bed asleep and snoring.
When asked by coroner Dr Brian Farrell if his mother had ever discussed thoughts of self-harm, Mr Rea said that that she commented more on “the self-destructive nature of her condition, not any direct intentions”.
Oscar Rea said he last saw their mother at 5.30pm on the day of her death when he went to check on her before leaving the house to go to his father’s to complete an essay. He said that she was lying on the bed and snoring. Danny rang him on finding their mother, he said.
“He was in a panic and saying that my Mam wasn’t breathing or moving. My Dad rang the ambulance but he was also quite panicked,” he said.
When paramedics arrived, they attempted to resuscitate Ms Price-Rea, however, she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Garda Joseph Robinson confirmed that there are no suspicious circumstances related to the death. There was no note or letter found at the scene.
At post-mortem, the toxicology report found therapeutic levels of a number of benzodiazepines including temazepam and diazepam and the anti-psychotic quetiapine. The anti-depressant mirtazapine was present at toxic but not fatal levels. There was no alcohol present. Pathologist Dr Muna Sabah gave the cause of death as cardio-respiratory failure due to mixed drug toxicity involving prescribed medications affecting the lungs and heart in a patient with microscopic evidence of scarring of the heart.
Dr Farrell said that there was no evidence to support a verdict of suicide. He returned a verdict of death by misadventure.