Noah Donohoe, the 14-year-old teen who was discovered dead in a storm drain in Belfast six days after being reported missing in June 2020, may have been assaulted shortly before his death.

On January 18, Niall Murphy, the solicitor representing Noah’s mother Fiona, said during a preliminary hearing for the inquest into Donohoe’s death: “We are aware of the line of enquiry which requires further investigation, in respect of statements received by police that Noah was assaulted as he cycled through the city centre.

“We appeal for anyone with knowledge of this event to immediately attend with police to make a statement in relation to this."

Responding to Murphy, Coroner Joe McCrisken said in court: "It is my understanding that an individual came forward to police with an account that was recorded by her solicitor. And police have an obligation to enquire into that account. Some of what was initially told to police has since been clarified. Enquiries are ongoing."

Murphy continued: “We have reason to believe that there is a particular and specific knowledge of this assault in the homeless community and with those struggling with addiction issues, both in the city centre and also from people who were residents at Queens Quarter housing association in University Street, specifically people resident there in June. The court will be aware that Noah lived metres away from Queens Quarter on the day he went missing.”

Murphy appealed for local residents and businesses to review their CCTV footage from June 21, 2020, as well as for people with "relevant photographs" to make them available to PSNI.

He noted: "You are not under suspicion, you have done nothing wrong and you will get your phone back. Please help Fiona find out what happened to her son.”

Murphy also addressed an unauthorized, self-published book that is for sale on Amazon about Noah Donohoe’s death. 

Murphy said: “Ms. Donohoe seeks to formally and publicly distance and dissociate herself from this book. She considers that the book and its promotional literature trespasses upon her grief. 

“She considers it to be very unhelpful in the context of truth recovery and notes, as you Mr. Coroner will understand, that it is completely devoid of any specific facts that will emerge at the Inquest, and indeed insofar as that is the case, the publication of the book is an abuse of this court’s previous direction, and I expect that the matter will be considered by the Attorney General upon reference from the Office of the Lord Chief Justice.”

The book has since been referred to Northern Ireland's Attorney General.

The disappearance and death of Noah Donohoe

Noah Donohoe, 14, went missing at about 5:30 pm on Sunday, June 21 when he went cycling across Belfast City. 

He was seen abandoning his clothes and cycling naked around four kilometers from his home some minutes later, leading police to believe that he fell from his bike and hit his head as both his family and the police say that this sort of behavior is "completely out of character." 

Police officers found the teenager's backpack and laptop computer in a search on June 26.

PSNI Superintendent Muir Clark said: "In my 30 years in the police, this is one of the most unusual missing person inquiries that I have dealt with."

On June 27, the PSNI said in a statement that they located a body in North Belfast believed to be that of Noah Donohoe’s.

A post-mortem later said that Donohoe died as a result of drowning, a result which Andree Murphy, a spokesperson for the Donohoe family and member of Relatives for Justice, said "raises more questions than answers."

On January 7, hundreds of supporters of the Donohoe family took part in a car convoy "in a show of support for our ongoing fight for the truth" that culminated at Stormont.

Speaking that night, Noah's mother said: "All I want is for an investigation, a thorough investigation for my son, for every child in Northern Ireland," the broadcaster quoted her as saying.

"Every parent should know their child should be able to go out and come home safely."

During Monday's preliminary hearing, Coroner Joe McCrisken confirmed that the formal inquest will begin in January 2022.

"The 10 January 2022 is not a provisional date," McCrisken said. "That's the date of inquest. I am entirely confident that this inquest will start then.

"There are a number of matters which we need to deal with. Discrete matters in terms of disclosure. I anticipate this will be completed before the next review date. If that is done by say the end of March, one hopes we will be in a different position come then, in terms of this pandemic."