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PJ Browne: Appalling 'golf ball in throat' case may never be resolved

THE mystery of the 'golf ball in the throat' case has shocked and appalled people.

The old cliche about 'man's inhumanity to man' in life and in death comes immediately to mind.

Alas, it is true. And the events concerning the death of Kevin O'Doherty at James Hospital are not the first instance of such depravity -- more of that below.

But as a former investigator I can see the difficulty in bringing the man behind the golf ball case to justice.

Mr O'Doherty passed away in hospital and a post-mortem found that he had died of a heart attack. The body lay in a morgue and was later collected by undertakers and taken to their mortuary for embalming.

The post-mortem revealed nothing extraordinary but the embalming process did. Some twisted individual had placed a golf ball in the throat of the deceased in the period between the original post-mortem and the embalming process.

Would you ever believe that such perversion exists in everyday life? Unfortunately it does.

One would obviously question protocols relating to who had access to the body from the time of the first post-mortem to the removal of the body for embalming.

Dr Michael Curtis, the Deputy State Pathologist, told the Coroners court that if the golf ball had been there at the time of the first post mortem it would have been found.

Having attended hundreds of post-mortems during my career, I have no doubt that it would have been found. Some depraved person defiled this corpse -- after the fact. Unfortunately, in the absence of CCTV, that sick idiot cannot be brought to justice.

This case will now bring enormous trauma to people who have just lost loved ones. It will cause enduring stress to their thinking about what is happening to the remains of a close relative.

All because of some idiot who was determined to cause the utmost trouble.

Only once in my time in the Garda Siochana did I encounter deliberate interference with remains.

That occurred at the Coombe Women's Hospital in 2001 when another depraved person hid the foetuses of seven babies in the post mortem slab drain pipe and replaced the cap on it.

The man was Desmond McCabe, a former mortician. Why did he do it? He had a grievance with his employer.

I remember attending that hospital and observing the trauma that this sick individual visited upon the Master of the Hospital and all the staff, and of course on the parents of the little infants who had through no fault of their own miscarried their expectant child.

The trauma that they were suffering following the miscarriage was made inexorably worse by the actions of McCabe, a thief who had worked as a mortician, a trusted position in any place of employment.

For all this pain this man was sentenced to serve 120 hours of community service. Readers can make of that sentence what they will.

People will ask today how could any individual do such awful things?

My only answer is that there are very strange people walking about.

PJ Browne is a former detective superintendent who investigated the Coombe Hospital foetuses case in 2001