herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Family's plea after tragedy of dad who took stag trip drugs

Oonagh Burke, partner of the late Alan Burke of Fethard, Co. Tipperary
Alan Bourke (28)

A DAD-of-two who didn’t want to take drugs at an Amsterdam stag party but sampled ‘magic mushrooms’ shot himself just 72 hours after he returned home.

Alan Bourke (28) was a changed man suffering from guilt and paranoia after he tried the fungus, also nicknamed ‘Amsterdam Truffles’.

His heartbroken Tipperary family urged young people not to sample drugs.

Alan’s devastated partner, Oonagh Heeney, claimed he was reluctant to try magic mushrooms on the trip.

“He had everything to live for. We were getting married the following November,” she told a Cork Coroner’s inqust.

“The tragedy is that he didn’t really want to go on that stag party trip in the first place.”

“Alan never took drugs [before].... he felt so guilty after taking them,” she added.

Oonagh said her partner went to Amsterdam a happy, hard-working young man, devoted to his children and family but he returned a changed

person because of the drugs.

His older brother, Tom, issued an emotional appeal on behalf of the Bourke family for young people to realise the devastation and damage that drugs can cause.

“Alan was not a drug user and it is our opinion that the drugs he took were a significant contributory factor in his death,” Tom said.

“We would like to highlight the devastating effect that taking illegal substances can have on families.

“Our family is a living testament to the damage and devastation that can result from a once-off recreational drug use.

“If young people, in particular, could see the suffering that can be caused, not only to family members but to a whole community, then perhaps our tragic loss may, hopefully, prevent other such occurrences,” he said.

“His passing has left a huge void in our lives that can never be filled. It is a cross that his family will have to bear.”

Alan, a carpenter and farmer, attended the Amsterdam stag party of a friend on May 23, 2014 and returned to Ireland within 24 hours after apparently consuming four of the fungus which he bought along with some alcohol. Just 24 hours after returning home, he became agitated, suffered from paranoia and couldn’t sleep at night.

“He was not his normal self. He was saying weird stuff... he was so disappointed in what he did,” Oonagh said.

“He said he didn’t deserve us. He said we would be better off without him. Then he said the wedding was off because we deserved better.”

She stressed that Alan was utterly devoted to their two children, Mia and AJ. His family said that he had never suffered from depression or agitation before.

He was very excited about his forthcoming wedding to Oonagh with whom he had been in a relationship for four years.

Despite strenuous efforts by Oonagh and the Bourke family to reassure Alan, he remained paranoid, unable to sleep and then didn’t go to work on May 27, which was totally out of character.

“By telling me about it (the magic mushrooms), Alan said he had felt a weight lifted off him,” Oonagh added.

But Oonagh and his family were still deeply worried about him and tried ringing and texting him on May 27.

Oonagh received a text from Alan saying ‘I love you’. Oonagh texted back and when she didn’t get a reply, she immediately became concerned. She alerted Alan’s father and brother and they found him lying critically injured in a field outside Tullamaine with a gunshot wound to the head.

airlifted

When found by his worried brother, Murt, and his father, Martin, he was able to speak and said: “Please take care of Oonagh and the children.”

He was rushed to Clonmel General Hospital before being airlifted to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Alan, the youngest of the five children of Martin and Noirin Bourke of Tullamaine, Fethard, Co Tipperary, died at CUH two days later. His heartbroken father said his son had described Amsterdam as “a dump”.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster, said that so-called ‘magic mushrooms’ can cause paranoia, hallucinations and significant mood changes in users. Their effects are similar to LSD.

hnews@herald.ie

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