Man dies from ingesting drug package in prison

By Louise Roseingrave

A jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure in the case of a prisoner who died after ingesting a package received during a visit.

Kevin Byrne (23), an inmate at Wheatfield Prison, received a package of drugs from his fiancee two days before Christmas 2014. He placed the package in his mouth and refused to relinquish it to prison staff. He was found collapsed in his cell the following day.

Wheatfield Prison 11

Inmate Kevin Byrne died in Wheatfield Prison on Christmas Eve on 2014

Garda Thomas Doyle said Mr Byrne’s then fiance Danielle Hayes made a voluntary statement to Gardai following the incident and gave a detailed account of her visit.

“She said she was asked by Kevin Byrne, whom she maintained was under threat, to bring in a package of drugs. She passed this during a visit. She stated when prison officers approached Mr Byrne he put the package in his mouth,” Gda Doyle said.

The garda said it was unclear why the prisoner pressured his fiance to bring drugs into the prison.

State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy found evidence of heroin and diazepam at autopsy. Prof Cassidy said there was no evidence the inmate had injected the drugs and they were most likely taken orally.

“This was a drug related death due to the inhalation of gastric contents due to heroin and diazepam intoxication,” Prof Cassidy said.

The drugs irritated the lining of the man’s stomach and he vomited. He was drowsy due to drug intoxication and this affected his gag reflex, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard.

“It’s likely Mr Byrne ingested heroin and diazepam into his system and this caused irritation of his stomach lining and this caused vomiting and in his drowsy state he was not able to protect his airway,” Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said.

Mr Byrne was found unresponsive in his cell by prison staff at 8.10am on December 24.

The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure which endorsed a number of changes implemented at the prison. The coroner sympathised with the man’s family.

“It must be difficult to hear that evidence and remember your loved one who died. We hope in some way this process has assisted you further,” Dr Cullinane said.

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