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Grief-stricken dad took own life: coroner


Des Mee was found outside Millers House apartment block in Newtownards

Des Mee was found outside Millers House apartment block in Newtownards

Des Mee was found outside Millers House apartment block in Newtownards

An inquest into the death of a Co Down man has found that he took his own life.

Coroner Patrick McGurgan said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that William Desmond Gallagher Mee (45), known as Des, jumped from a third floor apartment in Newtownards on July 26, 2016.

"Des was a man who was not without his problems," he said.

"He lost his daughter to cancer just a short time before this and there is no doubt in my mind that that contributed to this tragedy."

Mr McGurgan, who said there was "no doubt that this is a puzzling case", concluded that it was clear from the entirety of the evidence that Mr Mee "intended to take his own life" and died as a result of "his voluntary action".

The coroner paid tribute to the "fortitude and dignity" with which Des's on-and-off partner of 33 years Donna Johnston co-operated with the inquest. He said she had been forthcoming about her partner's battle with alcohol and prescription drug addiction and history of self-harm.

Mr McGurgan said Mr Mee increased his alcohol intake while nursing his daughter Melissa, who had died of cancer 11 months previously. At one point he asked "if I died would God let my daughter live?".

But following her death Mr Mee vowed to change "to be there for his grandson", whom he and Donna had spent the day with before going to the Millers House apartment owned by John McDowell. He had gone to return a mobile phone which belonged to the occupant's partner.

Ms Johnston offered to drive him there because she believed "it was a ruse" for Des to go drinking, and she waited in the car with their grandchild.

Less than four minutes later Mr Mee fell to his death from a window of the apartment.

The coroner said Des "was in good spirits and made no specific complaints" before the incident.

He accepted the evidence of Jason Hull, who in a statement said Mr Mee had "made his way to the window and started to climb out" as a number of people began to shout out. But Mr Mee told them "I want to be with my daughter" before jumping.

Eyewitness Stuart Campbell saw Mr Mee falling "feet first with his arms by his side".

Another witness, Ashley Miller, looked out of her window to see the deceased falling to the ground after hearing a noise "like a gust of wind".

"At no time did the decreased cry out," Mr McGurgan said.

Mr Mee suffered serious head injuries after he struck a large metal drainage grill.

Emergency crews attempted to resuscitate Mr Mee, who was bleeding from the ears and had "no cardiac output", but he was pronounced dead by doctors at the Ulster Hospital at 8.40pm.

Mr McGurgan said while "below therapeutic levels" of diazepam and "low level cocaine" were in Mr Mee's body, indicating non recent drug use, his death was solely due to his head injuries.

Belfast Telegraph