Northern Ireland news

Eight months after tragic death of Noah Donohoe, questions remain unanswered

Eight months after the tragic death of south Belfast school boy, Noah Donohoe, questions about the case remain unanswered
Marie Louise McConville

EIGHT months after the tragic death of south Belfast school boy Noah Donohoe questions about the case remain unanswered.

A gifted student at St Malachy's College there has been huge speculation, mostly online, about what happened the 14-year-old.

What is known is that Noah left his home in the Ormeau Road area on his black Apollo bike, on Sunday, June 21, 2020, at around 5.30pm.

He had told his mother, Fiona he was going to meet friends at Cavehill Country Park and had arranged to check in with her at around 6.30pm.

When he failed to call as arranged, she became concerned. A friend drove her to the north Belfast park but there was no sign of her son.

She then contacted the PSNI and a missing person appeal was launched.

Over the following days volunteers helped out in the search effort.

Investigations found that the teen had last been seen in the area of the Shore Road at around 6pm.

A CCTV camera at a home in the Northwood Road area recorded what is believed to be the last confirmed sighting of the schoolboy on his bike.

Two eye witnesses said they had seen a young boy naked, cycling a bike in the area but thought it was a "Father's day prank".

At one point, police said they believed the young man had fallen from his bike in the North Queen Street area and suffered a head injury which may have caused him to act out of character.

Noah's bike was later found as well as his mobile.

His green backpack, which contained his laptop as well as a copy of the book Twelve Rules For Life by Jordan B Peterson, was also later recovered.

A man was later convicted in connection with finding and stealing the rucksack and computer.

However, his khaki green North Face coat and grey sweat shorts, have never been recovered.

Six days after going missing, Noah's body was found by specialist searchers 950 metres inside a storm drain close to the M2 on June 27.

Books of condolence were later opened by Belfast city and Derry and Strabane councils amid a wave of sympathy for his mother and family.

Vigils were held and floral tributes left.

Days later, large crowds lined the streets as Noah's funeral procession made it ways towards St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street, stopping for a time at the school he attended.

A post-mortem examination determined the teenager had died as a result of drowning and did not suffer any serious head injury.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, thousands of people have joined an online campaign in support of Fiona Donohoe and her search for answers about what happened her son.

Known as `Noah's Army', their blue heart symbol can be found on murals around Belfast as well as on cars and in the windows of homes.

In August last year, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said she would "leave no stone unturned" in her support of Noah's family. She reiterated her support only last month.

Fiona Donohoe and her family have continued to maintain a high profile social media presence.

Ms Donohoe also enlisted the help of solicitor Niall Murphy from KRW Law.

The family's campaign has also seen Belfast city hall and other landmark sites light up blue in support of the family.

Last year, at a pre-inquest hearing, Coroner Joe McCrisken said there was no evidence Noah was attacked before his disappearance but stressed that investigations were ongoing.

Speculation persists however that the young man was attacked by a individual along his journey. Niall Murphy appealed for anyone in the "homeless community" in Belfast who may have information to contact police.

In recent weeks it has emerged the Donohoe family have set up a foundation in Noah's name to "inspire other young people".

The full inquest is scheduled to begin in January next year.

Earlier this month, the Irish News revealed that Noah's death could be set to become the first corporate manslaughter case brought against a Northern Ireland Assembly department in relation to the storm drain, in which the 14-year-old was found, being unlocked.

Just weeks ago, Noah's family made a fresh appeal for help in locating someone believed to have attacked Noah.

Other issues include a gap in the CCTV evidence in relation to the Noah case.

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