Belfast Telegraph

Alcohol-related death of Strabane man McGrath (30) should be a wake-up call, says coroner

By Donna Deeney

The death of a 30-year-old man who was addicted to alcohol should make others "sit up and pay attention" to the damage drink can do to their lives and those around them, a coroner has warned.

Sitting in Londonderry, Coroner Patrick McGurgan made his observation at the conclusion of an inquest into the death of Damian McGrath, who was found dead at his flat in Strabane in August last year.

He had not been seen for more than a week beforehand.

Mr McGrath had battled addiction since 2005, but a court case he was facing in September last year caused him to relapse, the inquest heard.

GP Enda McSorley outlined how Mr McGrath had repeatedly tried to deal with his demons with varying levels of success.

He had been admitted to an addiction treatment unit run by the Western Trust and also to the Northlands alcohol treatment centre in Derry on several occasions since 2005.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Peter Ingram said it was impossible to say exactly when Mr McGrath died because his body was so decomposed, but it was likely he had passed away about a week prior to the date he was found.

Mr McGrath was found after his stepfather went to his flat in Main Street, Strabane, because he hadn't seen him since August 17 and the family was concerned about his state of mind.

When the landlord opened the door for him, Mr McGrath was found lying on the living room floor.

Dr Ingram said that in his opinion he had died as a result of a fall or collapse, which resulted in two fractures to his skull, in turn leading to a subdural haemorrhage.

He added that falls were common with people with a long history of drug and alcohol addiction and stressed he had found evidence of liver disease.

Giving evidence, Mr McGrath's mother, Jacinta Vaughan, said she didn't want anyone to think her son wasn't loved.

"Damian was someone who worried about everything, but he had a good life," she added. "When he went into Northlands, he realised that.

"He would try and sort himself out, then he would slip, but he always tried.

"He had a court case coming up, which triggered his going off the rails.

"He was very good-natured and had a great personality, but he took rejection personally.

"I don't want anyone to think that because we hadn't seen him in a week he wasn't loved."

Mr McGurgan told the family that while he was able to rule out any suggestion of suspicion surrounding how Mr McGrath died, he could also assure them he would have "felt no trauma" when he fell.

"All too often alcohol has been a significant factor in cases coming before the Coroner's Court," he said. "It was a significant factor in the death of this man, which should make people sit up and pay attention to the damage to their own lives but also to the lives of people around them.

"There has been a palpable loss felt by Damian's mother and father and also by his stepfather. It appears to me that there are good services in Derry, but unfortunately when dealing with a young adult you can only give advice. It is up to them to take it.

"As I often see, Damian used alcohol as a crutch and in this case it was too much for him to overcome."

Belfast Telegraph

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