Open verdict recorded at inquest into death of pregnant woman

Monday 19 November 2012 22.47
Anna Byrne's body was found in the sea at Howth, Dublin
Anna Byrne's body was found in the sea at Howth, Dublin

An open verdict has been recorded at the inquest into the death of a pregnant woman at the Dublin City Coroner's Court.

Anna Byrne, 35, from Dunboyne, Co Meath, was 38 weeks pregnant with twins when she went missing on 7 March this year.

She was found in the sea at Howth the next day and it was believed she may have taken her own life.

The coroner Dr Brian Farrell said while there were indications of suicide, it could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The family's solicitor said Ms Byrne's husband, Terry, was anxious that mental health notes should be shared with antenatal teams in future as was not done in this case at the Rotunda Hospital.

Dr Farrell said he would write to the Board of the Rotunda to pass on the family's comments.

Ms Byrne, a mother-of-two, had failed to collect her toddler from a crèche in Dunboyne. 

The alarm was raised and gardaí found her car at Howth summit.

The next day, a woman's body was found in the sea and later identified as Anna.

Her husband said he left for work on the morning of her death and spoke to her by phone at 11am and nothing was wrong.

A short time later, the crèche rang to say she had not picked up her son, Aidan.

Mr Byrne confirmed that she had been depressed but she had never indicated that she would harm herself.

He said her death was completely unexpected.

The inquest also heard from Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, Obstetrician and Master of the Rotunda Hospital. He did not treat her personally but he detailed her medical history.

Twice towards the end of her pregnancy, anxiety was noted and she was referred to the hospital's mental health midwife.

He said when she filled in her initial forms, she had not indicated her history of depression although the question was asked.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said depression was noted in her previous pregnancies but not this one.

Under questioning from the family's solicitor, Dr Coulter-Smith said her psychiatric team's notes were kept separate from the antenatal team in order to maintain confidentiality.

Ms Byrne's father, John Deeny, asked if the hospital should not have admitted her to keep her under observation given her anxiety and history.

Dr Coulter-Smith said a premature delivery was not indicated and they did not bring in patients for bed rest.

Dr John Sheehan, consultant psychiatrist at the Rotunda, said that Ms Byrne was referred to him.

He said she had been depressed since her early 20s and had been on the anti-depressant Seroxat for ten years.

Dr Sheehan said she had recurrent depression associated with adjustment disorder but he considered her a low-risk for suicide because of her gender, age, marital status, pregnancy and lack of suicidal ideation.