Ireland’s Department of Justice has confirmed that it will re-examine the case of the 2011 death of Irish American Kate Fitzgerald, whose family insists that the original Garda investigation was flawed.
Kate Fitzgerald, a PR executive and former chair of the US Democratic Party Abroad in Ireland, was found dead in her home in Harty Place, Dublin City on August 23, 2011.
The 25-year-old’s death was ruled a suicide in a coroner’s case last year. However, Fitzgerald’s family say they do not accept the verdict and believe the original case was mishandled.
An article written by Fitzgerald on depression, suicide and workplace attitudes towards mental health, was published by the Irish Times, unaware that she had died, under a pseudonym on September 9, two weeks after her death.
Fitzgerald’s employers were later identified as the Communication Clinic, and the Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan published a controversial apology saying that 'significant assertions within the original piece were not factual.' The Fitzgerald family was angered by the paper’s actions and issued a statement in response.
The case was ruled to be a suicide after the initial investigation, but after repeated claims from Fitzgerald’s family, it did emerge that a number of standard procedures to rule out other potential causes of death were not followed, the Irish Examiner reports.
In the investigation, officers failed to take photographs of the scene before clothing and belongings were removed and there was no examination of the cupboard in which she is said to have killed herself. There was also the absence of a ligature allegedly used during her death.
In an “unsolicited” copy of the initial coroner’s report, which the family was provided, it was noted that a bone in her neck that would in most cases be left untouched in a hanging but is often broken in a manual strangulation case was fractured.
Last year, a Garda Ombudsman review of the case agreed that there were flaws in the investigation but said ti was unclear if this had any impact on the case as “potential evidence” was not “properly maintained” and was now “irretrievably” lost.
In a letter sent to Kate’s parents, Tom and Sally Fitzgerald, on August 8, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s private secretary, Chris Quattrociochi, confirmed that the Department of Justice has assigned a legal counsel to re-examine the case.
“The minister has established a mechanism for the independent review by counsel of certain allegations of garda misconduct, or inadequacies in the investigation of certain allegations, with a view to determining to what extent and in what manner further action may be required,” the correspondence stated.
“We are delighted that the new minister is taking steps to investigate,” Tom and Sally Fitzgerald have said in a statement.