Trolls target Mum fears for daughter who had Noah Donohoe’s laptop following social media storm
The mother of a young woman found with tragic teenager Noah Donohoe’s missing laptop has pleaded with cruel trolls to leave her daughter alone.
Maria Nolan (28) kept the computer in her hostel room after accompanying a man accused of theft to a city centre pawn shop in a failed bid to trade it in for cash.
Today her devastated mum breaks her silence over the 28-year-old’s involvement, telling the Sunday World: “Maria may have addiction issues, she may be a lot of things but she certainly would have nothing to do with a child who lost his life.”
Loretta Nolan (60) said Maria did not know the laptop she had in her possession belonged to the schoolboy, who at the time was the subject of a high-profile missing person’s appeal.
And the businesswoman said she now wants to meet with the Donohoe family to help them find answers over the 14-year-old’s tragic death.
“If there is one thing I wished to do and wanted to do since I heard about this in June, was to contact Fiona Donohoe – but I did not want to make this woman suffer any more than she was suffering already,” the grandmother told the Sunday World.
“I didn’t want to infringe on her grief for her son, because I have lost [a child] before her, this is all about Fiona and her only child.
“This woman will never get over this, as I know.
“We only learn to deal with it... our children are constantly on our mind... they will never cease to be on our mind.
“And I would have given anything for a chance to talk to Fiona, to tell her that I know in my heart and my mind that my daughter did not have anything to do with her son’s death.”
Loretta broke her silence after a man, 33-year-old Daryl Paul, appeared in court last week on a single charge of theft of the schoolboy’s laptop.
Belfast Magistrates Court heard how he was identified on CCTV trying to sell the computer at a Cash Converters shop two days after Noah went missing.
Paul, of Cliftonville Avenue, says he did not know to whom the computer belonged. The court also heard there was no suggestion he had any direct contact with Noah.
He claims to have found the rucksack containing the computer and some of the St Malachy’s College pupil’s schoolbooks. Noah vanished on June 21 after leaving his south Belfast home on a cycle trip to meet friends at Cavehill Country Park, sparking a massive operation to find him.
His naked body was found six days later in a storm drain north of the city. A post-mortem examination established he had drowned.
Paul was arrested overnight on Wednesday before his case was brought before Belfast Magistrates Court the following day.
District Judge Peter Magill was told a man and woman went into Cash Converters city centre shop on June 23, where they tried and failed to sell a laptop.
CCTV from the shop allegedly showed a man identified as Paul.
An anonymous call was then made to police about someone being in possession of the computer, a rucksack and green North Face jacket and schoolbooks with Noah’s name on them.
Officers attended Mr Paul’s home on June 25 – four days after Noah went missing – and recovered his backpack and books, the court heard.
At the time, he said he had found the laptop and had given it to a friend to look after. The computer was then said to have been found at the other person’s address.
The court also heard police had been searching for the accused since November 5.
During interviews he said that he discovered the rucksack and its contents perched up against a wall.
Claiming not to have examined the books inside in any detail, he said he would have returned them if he had known to whom they belonged.
Paul also told officers he planned to return the bag at some stage.
Defence solicitor Una Conway said her client had fully co-operated with police as a witness back on June 25.
Seeking bail, Ms Conway acknowledged Noah’s tragic death and how the 33-year-old discovered his bag.
Bail was refused, however.
Remanding him in custody for four weeks, Mr Magill also denied an application for reporting restrictions.
Following the court case, Maria Nolan was named on social media as the woman who had accompanied Paul to the shop, and who police later found with the laptop.
Loretta, who buried her youngest daughter Emma in 2018, said she now fears for Maria’s mental health after being forced to come off social media after receiving abuse.
She now wanted to set the record straight about her involvement.
“As far as I can remember, it was the hostel where Maria was staying in Queen’s Quarter who contacted me in June.
“There was a problem that occurred that day but I wasn’t told what the problem was. So, I rang back later that day and I said look, I understand Maria has been put out of the hostel, and I need to know why that happened.
“I was told the police had been there and I asked, in connection with what?
“I was told they had found something in her room and her room had been closed off.
“He said, ‘you would have heard on the news today that they found a laptop belonging to a wee boy Noah Donohoe, well they found it in Maria’s room.’
“And I slid down the wall, I thought, this can’t be right.
“Number one, Maria would never be involved in something like this. She’s got nieces, so I thought no, she’s not a harmful person.
“She wouldn’t intentionally hurt someone. So, I thought no, you’ve got this wrong. And then I said who can I call? And I was told to phone the police and I did that.”
Loretta added: “Really the first I heard the true story was when I spoke to Maria and her solicitor and they told me what happened.
“Her solicitor advised Maria to go voluntarily into the police station, which Maria done because she said, mummy I haven’t done anything.
“She said I will tell them what I know. Daryl Paul had approached Maria and asked her to hold on to the laptop for him and basically, he gave her the laptop.
“The next thing was Daryl Paul contacted her, he said he wanted to sell the laptop and Maria said she would go with him, she didn’t think anything of it. And she went with him to a Cash Converters and apparently when they went in, I was initially told Maria had the laptop in her bag, but I have since been told that the laptop was in the rucksack with schoolbooks and a jacket, which we knew nothing about, we only knew about the laptop.
“So, what happened to the child’s other stuff, we haven’t a clue?
“I am assuming that when she was in the Cash Converters the man who was serving them obviously thought could this be the same laptop the police are looking for and they contacted police.
“First of all they arrested Daryl Paul because he then told them he had given the laptop to Maria to mind, so he gave the address she was staying which was Queen Quarters Hostel and that’s when they went in and found it.
“They came in, asked for it and Maria handed it over.”
Loretta said her daughter was told no details of the origin of the laptop.
“He didn’t say to her where he had got it, he said he had a laptop he wanted to sell and he had taken it to his apartment and him and Maria were obviously in that apartment, and then he asked Maria would she mind the laptop for him.
“I truly believe in my heart and soul, knowing my daughter and knowing the way she was brought up, Maria never knew who owned that laptop.
“She was preyed upon, firstly because she has addiction issues, secondly because she was very vulnerable and because Maria finds it very hard to say no to people. She’ll be walked on, stamped on and God love her, she keeps going back for more.”
After being named on social media last week, Maria’s family contacted police.
“The person in particular that put the first post out, needs to take a good look at herself and ask herself why she done this?
“I have notified the police of this but they are not very sympathetic, they say there are no mental health issues with Maria, but I, as her mother, know differently.
“She is very vulnerable and I just hope and pray for the sake of the people who put these posts out, that I am not going down the road of losing a second daughter. Because if that happens, I will never forgive them.”