An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office in Northern Ireland has found new evidence linking RUC officers to the death of a U.S. citizen in Belfast nearly twenty years ago. In January 1998, 38-year-old John Hemsworth died from injuries he received in July 1997 during an assault as he walked home through the Clonard area in West Belfast after a night out with friends during a time of heightened tension in the city.

Before his death, Hemsworth – who was born in New Jersey before his family returned to Belfast – had alleged that police officers had carried out the assault. 

Two subsequent police investigations were unable to establish if police officers were responsible for the attack.

However, Police Ombudsman investigators have uncovered evidence that placed him in the same location as police officers at the time of the assault.

Last week, Police Ombudsman, Dr. Michael Maguire, said this new evidence had confirmed the conclusions of a 2011 inquest which found it was highly probably that police officers were responsible for the injuries which contributed to Hemsworth’s death. 

The findings of Dr. Maguire’s investigation have added weight to the conclusions of the coroner but have not identified the particular police officer, or officers, allegedly involved.

“The medical evidence is that the injuries sustained by Hemsworth were the sole underlying cause of his death in 1998,” Dr. Maguire said. 

“Further, the available evidence leads me to conclude that those injuries were sustained as a consequence of Hemsworth being assaulted by police officers.

“I am concerned that throughout the course of three investigations, and an Inquest, no officer who was present has been able to recall the incident,” he said. 

In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights was reportedly “scathing” about the inquest system in the North as it ordered the British government to pay €20,000 to the family of Hemsworth.


This article appears courtesy of the Irish Echo. For more stories, visit their website here.