Northern Ireland news

Man (31) who died five days after 'physical altercation' in north Belfast was an 'extraordinary soul'

Joseph Ritch

A NORTH Belfast man who died five days following an assault has been described as an "extraordinary soul" .

Joseph Ritch (31), who lived in Ardoyne, died on Wednesday at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

His family say his organs will be donated to help save the lives of three other people.

Originally from Lerwick on the Shetland Islands he moved to Northern Ireland with his family in 1996.

An aspiring actor in his teens and early 20s he had studied performance art at South Eastern Regional College.

Mr Ritch had been in a critical condition since Friday when he suffered a neck wound at a house in Flax Street at around 6.40am.

Police had been called to the scene following a report of a "physical altercation".

A 30-year-old man who was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder was later released pending further enquiries.

Detectives, who are treating the death as suspicious, have appealed to anyone with information to contact them.

Posting on Facebook, Joseph's mother, Cindy Ritch paid tribute to her son who she said would help to save the lives of three others through organ donation.

"It’s been the absolute privilege of my life to be his mum because he taught me patience and tolerance and enriched us all with his incredible energy and intelligence....I will love you and miss you forever."

A family friend and acting agent Patrick Duncan told how Mr Ritch was a keen actor in his teens and early 20s.

He was a stand-in for Harry Treadaway in adventure movie City of Ember, which also starred Saoirse Ronan and Bill Murray.

He also starred in Northern Ireland Screen feature film Cup Cake, as well as a health promotion film about the issue of suicide and had a number of roles for the BBC.

Despite "seeming to be coming round" in hospital his condition deteriorated and in the past couple of days conversations turned to organ donation, Mr Duncan said.

Describing Mr Ritch, who had Aspergers Syndrome, as "an extraordinary soul", he said: "He was an original."

"He didn't find life an easy journey but it was a wonderful mystery to him. People are very sad that he has not got the opportunity to continue on it.

"He seemed close to coming around," he said.

"But the last day or two, it became about the organ donation. His mother represented his interests. He will have been pleased in his soul that he was able to make that contribution."

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