Cheap drink ‘had significant role’ in Joby’s tragic drowning

Joby Murphy. INNT 05-055-FP
Joby Murphy. INNT 05-055-FP
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A CHEAP drink promotion was said to have played a significant role in the death of Glengormley man Joby Murphy.

At the inquest into the circumstances surrounding the 20-year-old’s death, the coroner ruled out suicide despite a witness claiming Joby was upset and had told him “it was not worth carrying on” moments before he fell into the River Lagan.

Coroner John Leckey said it was not Joby talking, but the drink.

Joby died after he fell into the river in the early hours of January 26 this year. He had been out with friends at a concert in the Odyssey Arena before later downing double vodkas in the Beach nightclub.

Joby’s girlfriend, Karen McKeever, who struggled with her emotions during her testimony, said the hotel worker was so drunk he fell down a set of stairs in the night club.

She said he was drinking beer in her house and his mother’s before the concert and then had drank several double vodkas later in the night club.

Ms McKeever said: “Joby was so drunk he struggled to walk.”

The couple left the Odyssey to get a taxi when Joby began singing songs in Irish which attracted the attention of nearby police officers who told him to “move on”.

Ms McKeever told the inquest : “I tried to get us into a taxi and Joby said he would not go. He argued with me and pushed me - which was out of character for him.”

She said she agreed to head home without Joby after he said he would follow her home later.

Witnesses told the inquest Joby was on the Lagan footbridge behaving in an aggressive manner and swearing at people.

Jason Downes, who was crossing the bridge on his way home after work, said he saw Joby lying on the railing of the bridge face down with his legs dangling over the edge.

He told the inquest Joby told him “there was no point in carrying on” and that he “wanted to kill himself”.

Another witness, a security guard who worked on the bridge, said he approached Joby and calmly asked him get away from the edge of the bridge.

He said Joby swore at him and then he immediately dialled 999. Both said they witnessed Joby fall into the river and then swim towards a boat moored in the middle of the harbour.

Mr Downes added: “I saw him grab onto a rope on the boat and call out for help, before he disappeared under the water.”

Another witness, Darren Atkinson, described how he tried to track Mr Murphy in the water as he ran the length of the bridge to get a life ring located on the bank of the river.

He said when he returned to the point where Joby entered the water he had lost sight of him.

During her testimony, Ms McKeever said that when she arrived home she sent Joby a string of texts and attempted to call his mobile.

It was eventually answered by a police officer who told her that Joby may have jumped into the river.

She told the coroner she would be “surprised” if Joby deliberately intended to take his own life.

Joby’s father, Joe, told the coroner he was shocked at the possibility his son may have taken his own life.

He told the inquest: “Just hearing that shocked me. Joby was a happy, happy fella, he would not have done that, it was the drink.

“I had told him before when I saw him drinking shorts that he should not touch them, especially vodka as it was very dangerous.

“That night he was drinking shots of vodka at £1 a go, which I believe was very irresponsible.

“I just wish the police had arrested him earlier in the night.”

Following Joby’s disappearance, rescue teams searched the Lagan for the best part of a month before his body was found.

Mr Murphy told the court how “angry” the family still were over how the police handled the search operation.

Joe said: “We found the police diver very gung-ho. He arrived and told us from the beginning that he would find his man, no matter what.

“Then he told us there would be no way the body would be beyond the motorway bridge before he eventually told us Joby was lost. We had to bring in our own search teams and they found Joby’s body and he was just beyond the bridge where the police said he would not have been.”

A police officer who acted as a liaison during the search operation told the court an “extensive search operation was conducted” for Joby.

Concluding, coroner John Leckey said Joby was “heavily intoxicated” at a level of over four times the drink drive limit and he was satisfied that he did not take his own life.

He said Joby’s death was a combination of the effects of alcohol and the very cold weather.

Mr Leckey said: “Mr Murphy is very concerned that the availability of strong alcohol at the price quoted of £1 led to his son’s death and I must say I agree with him.

“I don’t think what happened would have happened had it not been for the fact [Joby] was so intoxicated.”

Following the inquest Joe Murphy told the Times the hearing was “a weight off his shoulders”.

He said the family would continue to campaign for answers over the police’s search operation for his son’s body.