Ryan and Verwoerd: speculation

MELANIE Verwoerd, the partner of the late broadcaster Gerry Ryan, has spoken for the first time about her heartbreak at his death.

Verwoerd told Marian Finucane's radio programme yesterday that Ryan had wooed her even though she feared getting involved with "someone who has a public profile".

"He was very persistent and eventually I agreed to have a drink with him," she said. "And from being a very calm and rational woman, I completely fell for him."

Verwoerd said that on the day Ryan died, she had become increasingly concerned about him as she tried repeatedly to call him.

"Gerry hadn't been well for about two weeks," she explained. "He was very stressed, he didn't sleep well. He kept waking up and he wasn't well... but he wouldn't go to the doctor.

"The night before [he died] he was out with some friends, I was too tired so I didn't go with him. He phoned me just before 12 and we had a lovely conversation.

"I asked would I come over. He said that he was already in bed and wanted both of us to get a good night's sleep. And then the next morning I didn't get my usual call."

Verwoerd then went to Ryan's house. She had a key for the front door but it was bolted from the inside. She phoned 2FM and was told Ryan had called in the previous night to say he was taking the day off and her mind was put at ease temporarily.

"I kept texting him and phoning him. When it got to about 11.30, I got nervous."

With the help of a builder, Verwoerd managed to get inside: "I went inside and ran upstairs and found Gerry. I called for him [my son] then. He tried to help me revive Gerry. It was very obvious at that stage that there was very little that could be done.

"I don't think words can ever describe it. And I'm not sure that one ever gets over that. The sense of helplessness and shock haunts both me and my son ever since."

Verwoerd criticised certain sections of the media and said unconfirmed reports of Ryan's death, on 30 April, were circulating on the radio before some of his children had even been informed.

She said a newspaper's publication of private cards that were found in a skip was an "incredible invasion of privacy" and had been a "fairly distasteful thing to do".

Verwoerd also said speculation about Ryan's lifestyle was simply wrong and that he lived only for his children.

"He liked to drink," she said, "he didn't need to drink. He often went without drink for weeks because he was worried about his health."

She said life since Ryan's death had been incredibly difficult. "It's very lonely now. When everything around you doesn't make sense anymore, there's nobody around you to make sense [of it].

"I think the hardest thing is the silence. Gerry and I spoke all the time. We'd text, we'd speak, we'd phone, we'd debate... that's all gone. The hardest thing is that I don't have anybody to tell my stories to."