Noah Donohue inquest: Police find no evidence that a prisoner confessed to the ‘murder’ of schoolboy

Police have found no evidence to support a claim that a serving prisoner confessed to “murdering” Noah Donohoe, a coroner has been told.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 10:29 pm
Updated Saturday, 18th September 2021, 10:31 pm
Fiona Donohoe leaves Laganside Courts in Belfast on Friday after attending the inquest into the death of her son Noah. The 14-year-old schoolboy was found dead in a storm drain in north Belfast in June 2020

The 14-year-old pupil at St Malachy’s College was found dead in a storm drain in north Belfast in June last year, six days after he went missing.

A preliminary inquest hearing in Belfast was told that police officers have “thoroughly investigated” a report that a prisoner had come forward to allege his cellmate had confessed to killing the schoolboy from south Belfast.

Coroner Joe McCrisken also heard that Noah’s mother Fiona has formally lodged a complaint to Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman alleging a series of failings in the police investigation, including a claim that officers ruled out foul play too quickly.

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A barrister for the Donohoe family alerted Mr McCrisken to the possibility the January date for the substantive inquest may have to be pushed back to facilitate the ombudsman’s investigation.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) conducted enquiries into the alleged prison cell confession after the claims were reported in a Sunday newspaper in the summer.

During yesterday’s preliminary hearing, counsel for the coroner, Sean Doran QC, read out a letter from the Crown Solicitor’s Office (CSO) updating the court on the investigation.

The CSO letter said that the PSNI had advised the office that it had “thoroughly investigated” the alleged confession.

“Police have spoken with both parties concerned as well as conducting other enquiries to test the veracity of the claims,” said Mr Doran.

The CSO said the police enquires included engaging with a pathologist and working to establish the location of the individuals involved at the relevant times.

“There is no evidence available which provides any credence to the allegation,” the CSO letter continued.

The CSO said police were now engaging with prosecutors to establish whether any other offences were involved.

After reading the letter, Mr Doran told the court: “I thought it was important to state the precise text in order that there be no misunderstanding as to the position.”

Brenda Campbell QC, representing Noah’s mother, said the claims had been raised by the family at the last court hearing in June and they welcomed the fact this had prompted police action.

However, she said the family would reserve judgment on the police assessment until the documents detailing the extent of the enquiries were disclosed to the court.

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