Schoolboy’s laptop activity a ‘core issue’ for his inquest, coroner told

Noah Donohoe death
Noah Donohoe death (PA Wire)
17:11pm, Fri 16 Apr 2021
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Examination of a laptop belonging to Belfast schoolboy Noah Donohoe will be a “core issue” in his inquest, the family’s lawyer has said.

During a pre-inquest review hearing, Niall Murphy sought assurance from police that a “technical” problem encountered by forensic investigators in examining the Chromebook had been overcome.

Mr Murphy said findings in relation to the 14-year-old’s “internet access and use” could be a key factor in the inquest.

“That will inform all of which we are charged to consider,” said the solicitor.

Noah Donohoe death (PA Media)

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.

His disappearance prompted a huge search operation involving hundreds of volunteers from the community in north Belfast and beyond.

Prior to entering the storm drain, Noah had cycled from his south Belfast home through the city centre.

He was due to meet friends.

During the review hearing before coroner Joe McCrisken, Mr Murphy also sought an update from police on whether officers were satisfied with their engagement with a Canadian author whose book Noah had in his possession when he went missing.

Police investigating the death have been in contact with Jordan Peterson, who wrote the self-help book 12 Rules For Life.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the author.

Mr Murphy said when he spoke with the PSNI last month it was his understanding that officers were “not content that engagement (with Mr Peterson) has been discharged to the police satisfaction” though he acknowledged that position may have since changed.

Replying to Mr Murphy, the coroner said the police inquiries in regard to the book focused on Instagram activity on accounts not associated with Mr Peterson.

“The inquiries really relate to Instagram accounts, as opposed to Mr Peterson himself, and the keeper, holder or custodian of those Instagram accounts,” Mr McCrisken told the court.

Noah Donohoe death (PA Wire)

The coroner told Mr Murphy he would engage with police to establish progress in relation to the laptop examination and their inquiries related to Mr Peterson.

Mr Murphy also asked for an update on when police would return other items belonging to Noah, such as his phone, Kindle and schoolbooks.

Proceedings were watched by Noah’s mother Fiona and her sister Niamh.

Earlier, a group of supporters gathered outside Belfast Coroner’s Court holding banners and pictures of the schoolboy.

During the hearing, counsel for coroner Sean Doran QC told the court that a number of expert witnesses could potentially be asked to compile reports for the inquest.

He said those could include an engineering expert who would assess the storm drain network and also an expert in the fields of psychology or psychiatry.

Mr Doran said the latter could examine all the inquest material to see if there was anything present that could explain Noah’s “conduct and movements” on the day he went missing.

The inquest is due to be held in January 2022.

The next review hearing was scheduled for the end of May.

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