Model Katy French Remains Controversial After Death

Irish model Katy French, who died Dec. 6 after what police believe may have been a cocaine overdose, is still making headlines well after her death. The blond bombshell, who reached superstar status in the space of 11 months, died in a hospital after falling into a coma at a party outside Dublin.

Her death, following her well-publicized struggle with addiction, has cast a spotlight on what some call an epidemic of drug abuse in the country, and it's sparked controversy.

The government came under fire after an Irish official, Cpt. Michael Tracey, appeared at the funeral in French's hometown of Enniskerry. The presence of Tracey, an adviser to Ireland's head of government, Bertie Ahern, at a self-confessed drug user's funeral was denounced by many for the message it would send to the drug-plagued Irish youth.

"I was confused, Irish TV personality Claire Byrne, said. "When we asked the government for an explanation, we were told attendance was decided on a case by case basis."

Toxicology tests reportedly back the police suspicions of how French died, as they indicate traces of cocaine were in French's body at the time of death. But results of a complete autopsy and the official cause of death have not been determined.

French, who died just days after her 24th birthday, rose to national attention at the start of 2007, when her breakup with her fiance, Dublin restaurateur Marcus Sweeney, was made public. Sweeney disapproved of her glamour photo-shoots. The Katygate scandal, as it was called, turned French into a staple of the Irish tabloids, and a regular on the Dublin social scene.

"Katy French was in the papers every day for the last 10 months," Byrne told ABC News, "and certainly in the Sunday papers every single week."

French, who was also a contestant on the Irish reality TV show "Celebrities Go Wild," shocked her countrymen when she told journalists that she would rather abort an unwanted pregnancy than sacrifice her flourishing career.

According to P.J. Gibbons, editor of Social & Personal magazine and friend of the model, the love of the lens was French's weakness: "She became very involved in sending stories about her personal life to the papers and got a lot more work on the back of it," he told ABC News. "It became a bit of an addictive drug for her."

Before making headlines, French wrote a "People" column for the magazine. "She was an excellent columnist," said Gibbons, her editor at the time. "She was very well-educated and could have gone on to become a prominent writer."

The magazine rated French No. 50 on its "Ireland's 50 Most Invited of 2007," a list that includes Bono and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. "In the end, it was a downward spiral," said Gibbons, who saw his friend evolve out of his circle during the course of the year. "Something had to give. She lived life too quickly."

In a recent documentary produced by RTE, the Irish publicTV network, a group of clubs, bars and other social venues in Ireland were tested for signs of drug use in their bathrooms. It was found that nine out of 10 of the bathrooms tested positive for cocaine traces.

Ireland's favored location as a drop-off point for smugglers has made the drug's price fall to the lowest in Europe.

In the week preceding French's death, two Irish students, 21-year-old Kevin Doyle and 23-year-old John Grey, died in apparently similar circumstances. The two men were among 15 who reportedly ended up in a hospital after ingesting cocaine at a party at Grey's house.

Of course, critics point out, the government was not represented at their funerals.

"Ireland hasn't got very many celebrities, so it has to go by on a very meager diet," Irish Independent columnist Kevin Myers explained. "So if you're pretty, you sell papers, and you die of an overdose, that's it, you have all the qualifications."

To Gibbons, Taylor's attendance was an honest mistake. "They came because of the national coverage the funeral was getting," he told ABC News. "Unfortunately, it made her out to be somebody in the Irish society to look up to, when she was only a child."