By James Ward, PA
Police in Northern Ireland are investigating a fresh claim that Belfast teenager Noah Donohoe was abducted and murdered, a preliminary inquest into his death has heard.
Lawyers for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have confirmed that an investigation is ongoing into the claims, first published in a Sunday newspaper, that a prisoner has come forward alleging his cellmate had confessed the murder to him.
Counsel for the coroner, Sean Doran QC, raised the matter as a further potential line of inquiry at the preliminary hearing on Wednesday.
He said: “The reason that matter has been put on the agenda is that just very recently, this past Sunday, there was an article in The Sunday World.
“I’m not going to go into detail, but the article was titled Prisoner Claims His Cellmate Admitted To Killing Tragic Teenager Noah Donohoe.”
He said the matter had been referred to the PSNI for consideration, with their representatives confirming an investigation is ongoing.
Barrister for the police, Donal Lunny QC, told the court: “There’s not a great deal more I can say at this juncture.
“I can confirm the PSNI are investigating the matters which you mentioned.”
Barrister for the Donohoe family, Brenda Campbell QC, said the claims had caused them “great anxiety”.
“It’s an anxiety not just because of the content, but it’s an anxiety associated with what’s being done about it and whether or not it’s being properly investigated,” she added.
Huge turn out at Belfast Coroner’s Court today in support of Fiona Donohoe as a preliminary hearing ahead of an inquest into the death of her 14 year old son Noah in 2020 was heard pic.twitter.com/KkXnWx3XaJ
— Rebecca Black (@RBlackPA) June 30, 2021
Ms Campbell sought clarity that the investigation is being treated as a criminal matter rather than a coronial matter.
She said: “It’s a matter of concern to the family that on the one hand we are told that an investigation is ongoing, but on the other hand there were quotes in yesterday’s Irish News from the PSNI that appeared to suggest that really this is a coronial matter and not a police matter.
“Of course, given the nature of what said in those reports at the weekend, it very much must be a police matter, and must be a police investigation.”
She highlighted a quote from a PSNI spokesperson that appeared in the Irish News on Monday, that said: “The disappearance and death of Noah Donohoe is subject to an ongoing coronial investigation.
“The Police Service of Northern Ireland is conducting the investigation on behalf of the coroner so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
She said the allegation “must be acted upon by the police as a serious and significant police inquiry.”
“It must be done with some urgency, because of course, if there is an ongoing line of police inquiry… then that does impact on the proceedings before this court,” she added.
Noah, a pupil at St Malachy’s College, was found dead in a storm drain in north Belfast last June, six days after he went missing.
The disappearance of the 14-year-old prompted a huge search operation involving hundreds of volunteers from the community in north Belfast and beyond.
Noah had cycled from his south Belfast home through the city centre, before entering the storm drain.
He had been due to meet friends.
The next pre-inquest hearing has been scheduled for September 16.