Family deserve answers about Belfast man’s death, says coroner

Laganside House, Belfast
Laganside House, Belfast

The family and friends of a man who died days after he was found critically injured on a Belfast street deserve answers, a coroner has said.

Lawrence Pritchard, 50, died in hospital last April, 12 days after police were called to an incident near his home at Braehill Park in the north of the city.

No one has been convicted in connection with his death.

At a preliminary hearing in Belfast’s Laganside House, coroner Joe McCrisken said: “Had there been a prosecution, I would not be holding an inquest.

“The family, indeed, not just the family, but everyone, deserves to know what happened.”

Three days are likely to be set aside for a full inquest in March.

Mr Pritchard’s brother Andrew, who was not legally represented, told the court he had a number of concerns about the circumstances and investigation of his death and was particularly keen to question police during the forthcoming hearing.

However the coroner cautioned that an inquest was not a private prosecution but would specifically focus on four main facts - who the deceased was, and how, when and where they came by their death.

Questions deemed irrelevant would not be permitted, he added.

“This is not a private prosecution where the family can ask what they want,” said Mr McCrisken.

Meanwhile, the coroner also called for the disclosure of all relevant police documents including scene photographs and footage from the Police Service of Northern Ireland helicopter.

A transcript of the 999 call should also to be obtained, he said.

Mr McCrisken said: “It will be March before this is likely to be listed.

“I do not want to further delay this, so we will get moving as effectively as we can.”

Among the key witnesses to be called to give evidence will be a motorist, who has yet to respond to correspondence from the coroner.

Mr McCrisken said: “He will be a crucial witness at the inquest.

“I have written to him twice and had no response. I expect him to respond to me.

“Otherwise I can take steps to make sure he attends.”

The family declined to comment further after the hearing.