The strange disappearance and death of Noah Donohoe by Donal Lavery

“It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” – George Washington 

Before I write anything I must state that I did not know the late Noah Donohoe nor his family, but I commend the efforts, grace and dignity of his mother, Fiona, throughout all this tragedy. She is a proper hero and a real lady.

In this part of the island, we have a history of doubting the official narrative of things because of all the horrible historical events that have occurred. We forgive the sinner but certainly do not forget the sins, having very long collective memories. That’s important for a number of reasons I will elaborate on.

Across the world there have been protests about police corruption and malpractices, overlooked or aided by governments, from the Black Lives Matter groups to the Yellow Vest Movement. Recently we read about a case in England where two now suspended police officers took “selfies” of themselves next to the bodies of two black women who were the victims of the Wembley Park murders.

What all this tells us is that any institution which is presided over by humans will be subject to the flaws of humans. It also means that they must be answerable to humans via the people they claim to serve.

But in the case of Noah Donohoe, I sat and listened to a number of people privately who shared their concerns with me about the overall handling of the investigation into his disappearance and death. These people had differing perspectives but a shared integrity. After listening to the views expressed, I made a lengthy and detailed plea to the Police Ombudsman, via a complaint, for them to probe those involved in the investigation itself.

On Thursday 02/07/2020, I received a brief and dismissive response from the Ombudsman’s office, telling me to refer my queries and concerns to the PSNI themselves. Let’s just be clear about that – a member of staff at the Police Ombudsman’s office is more or less telling me, by way of inference, to allow the PSNI to review the actions or inaction of the PSNI. Needless to say, I told them it wasn’t good enough and demanded that it be escalated to the Ombudsman directly as I would be involving the media and taking it much further. I await a reply to same. 

However, the central ‘anomalies’ haven’t gone away and are still fresh in the minds of the population, where they cannot be dismissed. I do not have the space to list all of the points I made to the Ombudsman but the most pertinent ones are as follows:

1. Why, when the body of Noah was found, did the PSNI state that they suspected there had been no “foul play” prior to the ‘due process’ of an autopsy confirming or not confirming same? Surely that was potentially prejudicial, since someone medically qualified would need to make such a judgement? 

2. Why did the Police not acquire warrants to search properties in that area and demand all CCTV footage tracking Noah’s whereabouts from 5.57pm onwards on 21/06/2020? Particularly following Noah’s apparent “fall” from his bicycle at an unknown time near York Street, as reported by an anonymous lady. Surely it would have been sensible to have a widespread public consultation with the residents of that area on any suspicious behaviour? 

3. Why did the police not (as far as we know) question or search the homes of any registered sex offenders or those known to be involved in anti-social behaviour/gangs within the area,  which is predominantly Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist working class?

4. And what of Noah’s belongings? Where and when were each of these found, from his clothes, to his bicycle and helmet, and by whom? Did they have any emblems on them which would signify his religious background? 

5. Were finger prints taken of any of these items or around the storm drain location in which his body was discovered? Assuming this is a proper police investigation, it should still be ongoing and these concerns looked into, perhaps with consultations involving police more experienced in these matters based in England. 

I have sought to summarise my queries into the above questions and I hope that it will stimulate an awareness and respectful discussion as to what has happened and how we ensure transparency and accountability – both before our devolved Parliament (subject to petition) and to the public of Ireland. For what does it say about us as a society if we allow our youth to disappear and die in such questionable circumstances? Is this the hallmark of a civilised society? When children went missing and were found during the Moors Murders there were investigations lasting years – when all had been declared as “missing” prior to the arrest/prosecution of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. Should we allow this to simply go unchallenged, then this is not the same caring and cohesive place where I was born and it is certainly not the place in which (as an old man) I would wish to one day die. The old mantra still stands, that justice refused is still justice denied. Our police service needs to supply some answers.

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