A pregnant mother-of-two who desperately wanted a daughter jumped from a cliff-top when she discovered the twins she was carrying were boys, a coroner’s court has been told.
Anna Byrne, 35, a nurse from Dunboyne, County Meath, was left ‘devastated’ when ultrasound scans in March this year showed she would be having two more boys.
In the months before her death she noticed baby girls everywhere and avoided her friends – particularly those with daughters.
In the early hours of March 8, six days after attending a psychiatrist complaining that she was feeling low, she jumped from a cliff-top at Howth summit, Dublin, the city’s Coroner’s Court was told.
Mrs Byrne was in the last days of her pregnancy and was due to give birth by caesarean section on March 29.
Her husband Terry described the final conversation the couple had before she died. He said at the inquest into her death: ‘We told each other that we loved each other and she said “I’ll see ya later”.’
The coroner returned an open verdict because he could not say beyond reasonable doubt that the mother intended to take her own life.
Dr John Sheehan, consultant psychiatrist at the Rotunda hospital in Dublin, said he met Anna and her husband on March 2 and considered her at ‘low risk’ from self-harm.
The heavily-pregnant Mrs Byrne had been referred into his care by a midwife after she admitted her mood was low.
She had suffered from depression from her early 20s and her first pregnancy in 2004 ended in miscarriage.
She went on to give birth to two little boys, Joe and Aidan.
‘However, she felt part of her life was missing because she had two sons and no daughter,’ Dr Sheehan said.
Mrs Byrne found out 20 weeks into her third pregnancy that she was carrying boys again. She was left ‘devastated’ and unable to sleep for several nights.
She admitted to her GP she didn’t feel maternal and also felt ‘overwhelmed’ at the prospect of having four boys.
‘She began to notice baby girls everywhere’, Dr Sheehan said.
Terry Byrne said his wife ‘put on a front’ to friends and family, but privately was ‘drained’.
The couple had talked about flying to Greece, where they would be allowed to select the sex of their child through assisted reproduction treatment.
Dr Sheehan added that Mrs Byrne had been tearful at times during their meeting but showed no signs she was feeling suicidal.
He increased her dosage of anti-depressants and prescribed anti-histamine to help her sleep. Mr Byrne spoke of his final contact with his wife the day before she died.
She had been heading to the supermarket when they spoke on the phone at about 11am on March 7.
Mr Byrne said: ‘At the end of the call, I told her to phone anytime if there was anything. We told each other that we loved each other and she said “I’ll see ya later”.’
He first became aware she was missing at 1.30pm when she failed to collect their son from Montessori School.
Mr Byrne checked with the supermarket and all the local maternity hospitals, and rang her friends.
He called Gardai in Dunboyne at 3.30pm and just after midnight, her car was found by a friend at Howth summit. Gardai found a ‘heart-rending’ farewell note in the car.
A search and rescue operation followed but was called off at 3.30am and her body was recovered from the base of the cliff at 7.49am.
It was established that Mrs Byrne had been dead for eight to ten hours and a post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as the multiple injuries due to a fall from a height.
The master of the Rotunda Hospital, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said that Mrs Byrne did not indicate a history of depression when she registered the pregnancy.
However, this information about her mental health was available in the notes made about her previous pregnancies.
In February, Mrs Byrne was noted to be ‘anxious’ about her pregnancy.
Speaking at the court, her father John Deeney asked why she had not been admitted to hospital for observation at this point.
Dr Sheenan replied this was only done in severe cases of mental illness and there were no indications she was feeling suicidal and she had made future plans.
Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said although he was not saying Mrs Byrne did not want to take her own life, the evidence did not satisfy the legal test for a verdict of suicide.
Consequently, he returned an open verdict.
Read more: Dailymail