Noah sentence man back in court and pleads guilty to theft from pharmacy

A man who previously received a jail sentence for stealing schoolboy Noah Donohoe’s rucksack has now pleaded guilty to theft from a pharmacy in Ballymena.

Daryl Paul, 36, formerly with a Belfast address but now with an address listed as Maghaberry Prison, had stolen two Nicorette quick mist sprays worth £58 from Boots in the Harryville area of Ballymena on April 18, 2019.

At Antrim Magistrates’ Court, sitting in Ballymena yesterday, he appeared via video-link from prison and pleaded guilty to the pharmacy charge.

A defence solicitor said the defendant is in custody on “other matters” but will be making a bail application within the next few weeks.

Noah Donohoe, who died in June 2020, and his mum Fiona

The pharmacy theft case has been adjourned to July 19 for a pre-sentence report.

In January 2021 another court heard Paul tried to pawn a laptop owned by Belfast schoolboy Noah, while a major search for the teenager was ongoing.

Paul had pleaded guilty to stealing a rucksack containing Noah’s laptop and schoolbooks, after finding it on the day the boy went missing.

He received a three months jail sentence on that matter.

A defence lawyer had said Paul had no personal contact with Noah at any stage and said the theft was “opportunistic”.

Noah Donohoe, 14, went missing after leaving his home on a bike in June 2020, and his disappearance led to a major search operation in north Belfast.

The schoolboy’s body was recovered from a storm drain six days later, and a subsequent post-mortem examination found that he died as a result of drowning.

The court last year heard Paul had 194 previous convictions, including 52 for theft – a record a judge described as “horrendous” – but he stressed there was no link between Paul and the schoolboy’s death.

“There is no overlap between this accused and the terrible tragedy that befell poor Noah,” the judge had said.

The bag theft case at a magistrates’ court in Belfast had been told that three days after Noah went missing, a man and woman went into a Cash Converters store and attempted to sell the teenager’s laptop.

Staff at the shop refused to buy the computer and alerted police and Paul was later identified on CCTV footage.

The defendant told police he found the laptop propped up against a wall near Ulster University buildings in Belfast city centre. He took it home but was unable to switch it on.

The defendant also told police he did not look in detail at books inside the bag.

“He said he didn’t know the bag belonged to the missing boy Noah, and if he had known that he would have returned it immediately,” a prosecution lawyer had told the court.

“He said that he did make some positive efforts to unite the bag and contents with its owner, and he was planning to try and return it at some stage.”

A defence barrister had told the Belfast court that the police accepted there was “no personal overlap” between his client and Noah.

“This is just an opportunistic, dishonest, person finding a rucksack and treating it as his own,” he said.

He added that his client later provided information to police which led to officers recovering the laptop.

“He couldn’t have been more cooperative and helpful in moving the police investigation along,” the defence barrister had said.