A man who had not been seen for nearly six months, and was presumed to have gone home to his native country, was found dead in a City Council house, an inquiry into his death heard.
The cause of death could not be determined, however, due to the high level of decomposition, and an open verdict was returned.
South African native, Goolam Nabie Shahid Hassim (50), had moved into the house in Fana Búrca, Knocknacarra, with his wife and two step daughters about 13 years previously. It was around the same time as his neighbour, Philomena McDonagh, whom he became friendly with.
She told the inquiry that the marriage broke down in the summer of 2016, after which he became more withdrawn.
“He had been a lovely neighbour up to then, he was friendly,” she said.
“He stopped saying hello to people on the street; he was getting more into his religion.”
She last recalled seeing him in mid-December 2016, as he was heading to the bus stop.
“When I hadn’t seen him in January and February, I started to wonder. I said it to some neighbours, I tried knocking on his door, I then heard that he had gone away for Christmas and I thought he had stayed on longer or something.”
His ex-wife, who was living in Leeds at the time, gave a deposition to say that she had last spoken to him in late August 2016, but had received an email from him on December 12.
“While corresponding with Shahid in emails, he spoke about making a new start – he had a range of ideas, because his immigration status was vulnerable . . . he didn’t want to be deported, he wanted to leave on his own terms,” she stated.
“When I didn’t hear from him, I thought he had left the country, and that he would contact me again when he got sorted.”
She said that her ex-husband, whom she married in 2008, had been depressed and sad that she had left Ireland. He invited her to attend his graduation ceremony in November, but she had been unable to attend.
“We were on good terms and, while corresponding, there was kindness towards each other – there was no bitterness between us.”
Her daughter’s partner, Nigel Goldbey, told the Inquest at Galway Courthouse that he was aware that Mr Hassim had been due to either leave the country or look for work in Dublin. They had arranged with Galway City Council to move into the house at the end of May 2017.
However, they had been unable to contact him, and called to the address on May 12.
“I looked in the living room window, I saw a lot of blue bottle flies dead,” Mr Goldbey said.
“I opened the letter box and I saw all the mail piled up. I felt there was something wrong.”
He kicked in the back door and they entered the house.
“I said to Fern: ‘He is dead, you wait downstairs,’” he said.
He went upstairs and opened a bedroom door, and saw someone on the floor.
“I assume it was Shadid, I had met him briefly about two years before.”
Gardaí were called to the scene, and death was pronounced at 5.45pm. The subsequent investigation revealed that the ‘best before’ dates on the perishable food items in the fridge ranged between December 14-16 2016.
Neighbours were canvassed, and the general opinion was that Mr Hassim had not been seen since the previous Christmas.
His remains were taken to the morgue of University Hospital Galway, where consultant pathologist, Dr Birgid Tietz, carried out a post mortem examination on May 13.
During this, a muscle tissue sample was taken for DNA analysis – the Inquest was told that DNA profiles are inherited, and blood relatives are more likely to have similar readings; samples were also taken by South African authorities from Mr Hassim’s sisters and brother.
These were then sent for comparison to the Forensic Science Laboratory, and the results showed that “the DNA profile obtained from the tissue sample is approximately 121,000 times more likely if it is from the biological brother of Mr Hassim, rather than from an unknown unrelated man.”
Dr Tietz found that the body was in an advanced state of decomposition and mummified, which was consistent with death “many months ago.” For this reason, the cause could not be determined.
Coroner, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, returned an open verdict, that death had occurred between December 14-16 2016.
“The cause of death is unascertained, due to advanced decomposition, but there was no evidence of injury,” he said.