This could be big. Given the gardai’s unwillingness to allow the clothes to be forensically tested, it turns out there may be blood all over them. This would lend support to the idea that Wheelock was assaulted and subsequently died in Garda custody.
Terence Wheelock (20), Summerhill, Dublin, was found unconscious in a cell at Store Street Garda station last June after he apparently attempted to hang himself with a cord from his tracksuit bottoms.
He was taken to the Mater hospital by ambulance but never regained consciousness. He died there three and a half months later, on September 16, 2005. His family alleges that the circumstances of his death differ from the Garda version of events and that he was mistreated while in a cell.
An inquest into Mr Wheelock’s death was adjourned last month so that State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy and Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell could view photographs that are said to show abrasions and minor lacerations to the man’s body.
The pictures were taken by a clinical photographer at the Mater the day after his admission and were presented to the court by the Wheelock family’s legal team.
The Wheelock family’s forensic experts from Britain carried out the examination of his clothes in the last couple of weeks and the level of blood-staining is said to be of “major magnitude” to the case.
It is understood that new evidence may come before the inquest following on from the independent forensic examination. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) directed in February that there be no prosecution in relation to Mr Wheelock’s death.
But any new evidence that comes to light during the inquest could result in the Wheelock’s legal team requesting that the coroner ask that another Garda file be sent to the DPP for consideration.
Securing Mr Wheelock’s clothing and the ligature used in his death for independent examination came after months of legal wrangling between the family’s legal team and the Garda Commissioner’s office.
Permission was denied for the clothing to be sent Britain and the family’s experts were eventually permitted to carry out the testing in the Forensic State Laboratory.
Michael Norton, a forensic scientist at Garda headquarters who examined the ligature used in Mr Wheelock’s death as well as his clothes, told the last sitting of the inquest that there were blood stains on some Mr Wheelock’s undergarments.
The inquest will be heard briefly today before it resumes in full in the New Year.