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Stairs fall ‘did not contribute’ to teenager’s death

The late Dean Lafferty

The late Dean Lafferty

 
Edited version
A CORONER has ruled a young Stranorlar man could have died from ‘sustained or self-sustained injuries.’
 
However a number of family members stormed out of the inquest this week into the death of Dean Lafferty (18) after Dr Denis McCauley returned an ‘open’ verdict. 
 
Mr Lafferty was found dead in a bed at his mother Tina’s home at 94 Admiran, Stranorlar, on Monday, February 17, 2014.
 
Garda Superintendent, David Kelly, said one witness, Seamus Bradley, had been excused due to himself receiving a brain injury following a road traffic incident at a later date. 
 
His deposition (statement), taken shortly after Mr Lafferty’s death, was read to the court.
 
Mr Bradley said he, Dean Lafferty and another friend moved into a flat in Stranorlar days earlier.
 
On Sunday, February 16, a Mark Patton arrived at around 9 pm before going to a bar with Mr Lafferty where they bought two bottles of ‘shots.’
 
Both men began mixing the drinks and consuming them at the flat. Mr Bradley did not drink, but the two others went to Barcelona Bar in Ballybofey. 
 
Mr Bradley received a call at around 12 midnight from a female friend. She said Mr Lafferty had been in a fight and headbutted a bouncer before being ejected from the premises. 
 
Mr Bradley awoke at around 2 pm on Monday and discovered he had still not returned.
 
He contacted Travis Lafferty, the deceased’s brother, who told him that he was sleeping in his bed at his mother’s house. Mr Bradley went to the house later. 
 
“I went upstairs to wake him, but as soon as I saw I knew something was wrong. He was white and looked like a body lying in a coffin,” Mr Bradley said.
 
A second witness, Chloe McGee, failed to appear so her deposition was read into evidence. 
 
She saw Mr Lafferty in Barcelona Bar at around 12 midnight.
 
She met him again on a bus to The Grill in Letterkenny. She said he had to be held up in the bus and that he fell out of the vehicle at Letterkenny Courthouse and hit his head on the ground. 
 
Mr Damian Foy, Ms Tina Lafferty’s partner, said he was in bed when her phone rang. Mr Lafferty was calling from a girl’s phone and that he was crying and asked him to come pick him up.
 
“I knew by the look of Dean he was scared and had been roughed up and been in a fight,” Mr Foy said.
 
When they got to Stranorlar, Mr Lafferty went to sleep on an armchair downstairs while he went to bed.
 
He got up later to see if he was OK and heard a ‘slip and a fall’ before seeing Mr Lafferty sitting at the bottom of the stairs.
 
Mr Foy said he went to Castlederg the next morning. At around 7 pm that evening he rang Ms Lafferty who told him Dean was ‘top’ and was in bed sleeping.
 
A short time later she called to say he had stopped breathing. He rushed home but “could tell he was dead” when he saw him.
 
Dr Murough Birmingham pronounced him dead at 8:04 pm.
 
Sergeant Maurice McWalters, a Scenes of Crime investigator, said he arrived at the house on Tuesday morning. A post-mortem was carried out by the State Pathologist, Dr Marie Cassidy, later that day.
 
Dr Cassidy give him an oral briefing and he returned to the house the following day. 
 
“I was satisfied that Dean Lafferty did not receive fatal head injuries at 94 Admiran Park,” Sgt McWalters said.
 
When pressed on this by Dr McCauley, he said he came to this conclusion with the benefit of Dr Cassidy’s briefing.
 
“And from my experience, there was no evidence of head injuries from the fall on the stairs. I thought no (serious) fall or serious assault took place in the house,” he added.
 
Dr Cassidy concluded Mr Lafferty’s death was as a result of an extradural haematoma (EDH), which is a collection of blood that forms between the inner surface of the skull and outer layer of the dura.
 
Dr McCauley said, normally, it could be days before there is any swelling inside the brain and that this can happen in sport following a seemingly innocuous challenge or collision.
 
“Maybe (in Mr Lafferty’s case) this was as a result of a punch, kick or the head butting incident or a fall. Any incident that occurred with Dean Lafferty that night could have been the cause.”
 
Dr McCauley believed the fall down the stairs “did not contribute” to the death.
 
“We do not know exactly what injures were sustained, caused or self-sustained. This leaves me with no option but to return an open verdict because I do not know which event caused the injury. I will record the cause of death in accordance with Dr Cassidy’s findings. At the end of the day, it is a mystery that we cannot solve. This was a tragic event that, hopefully, was an accident.”
 
Two members of the Lafferty family made a number of comments before storming out. 
 
Following questions from another family member, Dr McCauley said Gardai had taken the investigation as far as they could and that he was comfortable with the evidence he had heard before making his decision.
 
Expressing his condolences to the family, he felt the open verdict was the “most appropriate.”
 
For a full, indepth report, see today’s Donegal News or download a copy from our digital edition.

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