Stress a factor in tugboat captain's death

A MUCH-LOVED tugboat captain who was assaulted by a police officer suffered a sudden cardiac death caused by stress, a jury has ruled.

James Hore

A MUCH-LOVED tugboat captain who was assaulted by a police officer suffered a sudden cardiac death caused by stress, a jury has ruled.

Father-of-three Captain Ronnie O'Reilly collapsed in his family home in Clacton just moments after he was assaulted by Pc Gary Jay and died on the way to Colchester General Hospital.

An inquest jury at County Hall, Chelmsford, yesterday ruled that the 48-year-old grandfather had suffered sudden cardiac death due to heart disease precipitated by stress on the night of June 14, 2007.


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However in a narrative verdict, the seven men and four women, said they “did not feel that one single action or event directly led to his death”.

Jay, who did not attend yesterday, had been passing the O'Reilly home and went to investigate loud shouting, saying he believed it was a breach of a peace.

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Capt O'Reilly, who worked at Felixstowe docks, had a long-standing heart condition and collapsed in his kitchen within minutes of the officer entering the house and assaulting him.

In 2008 Jay was convicted of assaulting both Capt. O'Reilly and his wife, Moria, who had suffered a stroke earlier that year.

After the jury returned its verdict yesterday afternoon Mrs O'Reilly made a point of praising the members directly for what they had done, saying it could not have been easy.

Speaking afterwards she said she was satisfied with the outcome and that her husband's death had been attributed to the stress he suffered in the final moments of his life.

“I am really pleased with that verdict - when we found out that had Ronnie died from heart disease we accepted that straight away.

“However, we should not have lost him that night and we should not have lost him in those circumstances and the fact that Gary Jay has been found guilty twice of assault and sacked as a police officer and now named as part of the stress concerned with his death - I think that is what we wanted.”

Mrs O'Reilly paid tribute to her “larger than life” husband as the “best-loved brother, best-loved uncle and best-loved father”.

“It was never, ever about anything other than getting justice for Ronnie,” she added.

Earlier in the week Doctor Nat Carey, a forensic pathologist, had said Capt O'Reilly's heart attack could have been triggered by the stress he was under at the time Jay entered his home.

He said: “The collapse in the kitchen was not a random event - you cannot ignore what was going on just prior to his collapse,” he told the jury.

Dr Carey said it was “particularly important” to look at the moments just before the tugboat captain's collapse and concluded the cause of death to be sudden cardiac death, to do with, or as a consequence of, Ischaemic heart disease precipitated by stress.

Jay, who has was sacked by Essex Police last year, claimed he had not been violent and was concerned that there was a breach of the peace.

Jay, who attended the house on his own, confirmed he did not know his whereabouts in Clacton so could not tell other officers where he was.

During the inquest Mrs O'Reilly had called the former officer “arrogant, patronising, very antagonistic and condescending” as he confronted the couple and accused Capt O'Reilly of breaching the peace.

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