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Booze linked to dad's death, not fatal spider bite

MEDICAL experts found no trace of a mysterious spider bite or venom in a middle-aged man who died from a torn gullet complicated by liver disease linked to alcohol use.

The revelation came as John Kennedy's wife, Jean, insisted that her late husband had been bitten by a mysterious spider 18 months before his death.

But a Cork coroner's inquest into the death of Mr Kennedy last July found absolutely no link to a spider bite.

The inquest recorded a verdict of death by misadventure for Mr Kennedy from Midleton, Co Cork.

Jean Kennedy said John was bitten by a spider a few months before he died in hospital after being admitted coughing up blood.

Holes

"He was bitten by a spider early last year in January 2013. There were two marks on his neck. They were two little holes," she said.

"He did not see what bit him but he said he felt a bite. He flicked it off and he started bleeding.

"Two weeks later we found a spider, black with red (markings) on its back in my daughter's schoolbag. It was in a corner and there were cobwebs."

Reports had speculated that the spider could be a Red-Back, a species not native to Ireland but commonplace in Australia.

Red Backs, like False Widow spiders, can inflict an extremely painful bite.

Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane said she was concerned over the possible public health issues involved and ordered that inquiries be made.

Mercy University Hospital (MUH) specialist Cristóir Ó Suilleabháin said he attended Mr Kennedy on July 18 after he was admitting vomiting blood.

Mr Kennedy had a history of liver disease associated with alcohol use.

"He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit with uncontrollable bleeding," he said.

The patient was found to have a large gullet tear and despite three hours of medical intervention the bleeding could not be stopped.

Surgery was impossible because Mr Kennedy's condition was very unstable. He later died.

The specialist confirmed to Dr Cullinane that there was no connection with a possible spider bite.

"The bleeding could not be controlled because of a perforation at the lower end of his oesophagus. Death in this case was not due to a bite but because of the significant and rapid bleeding which would not allow us to repair the tear," he said.

Venomous

Prof Mary Horgan, a UCC infectious diseases expert, said there are no venomous spiders in Ireland.

Her report also said that the type of spider described was not found in Ireland.

Prof Nollaig Parfrey, who performed the post mortem on Mr Kennedy, said he had a gullet rupture 12cm long.

The cause of death was rupture of the oesophagus combined with vomiting blood and a secondary factory of a diseased liver due to excessive alcohol consumption.

There was no evidence that a spider bite had any relation to this death.

Dr Cullinane said there was widespread public disquiet following media reports about the spider bite.

hnews@herald.ie


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