Two housemates who discovered their 46-year-old landlord lying in a pool of blood, cleaned up the mess before his family were informed, an inquiry into his death heard.
Coroner for West Galway, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, questioned each man individually, trying to understand why they had contaminated what was initially thought to have been a murder scene.
“When you find someone dead in unusual circumstances, with blood in the vicinity, you call the Gardaí,” he said to one of them.
“Everyone should know that, so that the scene can be preserved, so that the death can be fully investigated, so that his relatives would know that everything had been done properly, otherwise they would need to ask questions like I’m asking you today.”
Due to the suspicious nature of the death, State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, carried out the post mortem examination on the remains of the 46-year-old man. She found no evidence of foul play, however, and said that the cause of death was likely accidental and avoidable, but had been exacerbated by alcohol intoxication.
Shane Minihan had not been seen by his housemates for the two days between October 30 last and the morning he was discovered.
On the morning of November 1, one of them (27) arrived back to the house in Tirellan Heights at 8.30am, having worked the night shift in Medtronic.
He discovered glass on the floor, from a door panel, in the sitting room and blood on the bannister, both of which he cleaned up. He then went into his landlord’s room to check on him, but found him unresponsive and cold to the touch.
He said that there was blood on the side of Mr Minihan’s head and on his bed.
When asked by the Coroner why he had not called for help, he said that his phone was dead. The Coroner then asked why had he not gone outside to alert a neighbour, to which he replied: “Shane’s friend called (by chance) ten minutes later – he called someone.”
The second housemate, a 24-year-old student, was in the house when Mr Minihan was found dead. He did not think to ring the emergency services either, and said that it struck him as more important to ring the man’s family first, considering that he was already dead. He did not have their contact details, however, so he rang a mutual friend. He then cleaned blood off the wall.
“We didn’t want his sister to see his room like that,” he said.
Again the Coroner asked why he had not contacted the emergency services first. The young man replied that he thought it better to inform the man’s family, considering that he was dead, and once the Gardaí got involved they would have restricted access to the house.
“It was not better,” the Coroner replied.
When Gardaí were finally informed, by Mr Minihan’s friend, who called unexpectedly to check up on him, he was pronounced dead at 10.41am.
“He had a large laceration to his head, and he was in rigor mortis,” Dr Dennis Higgins noted.
Garda James Lynch told the court that he found drops of blood leading up to Mr Minihan’s bedroom. The house was sealed off, and the scene preserved.
The State Pathologist was called to carry out the post mortem examination, and she subsequently produced an eight-page report. A summary of her findings were read into the record – most importantly, that the source of the bleed was an incised (clean) wound to the right of his forehead, consistent with a cut from glass.
“He likely fell and hit off the glass door, which caused the injury to his face and ear,” Professor Cassidy stated.
“He was considerably intoxicated at the time of his death, which would be associated with a lack of co-ordination and unsteadiness – he would have been unaware of the danger to life that the injuries posed.”
The Coroner, who had read the State Pathologist’s conclusions into the record in her absence, advised the Minihan family that it was reasonable to suggest that their brother had died during the early hours of November 1.
Dr MacLoughlin concluded that death was caused by haemorrhage from an incised wound to the scalp, which was sustained in a fall.
He offered his sincere sympathies to Mr Minihan’s two sisters and his brothers in law on the very tragic circumstances of his death.
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later