search for answers | 

Noah Donohoe’s aunt says teen was cremated because he had lifelong fear of the dark

His family are convinced Noah’s phobia of the dark is one of the keys to unravelling the mystery of why his corpse was found 950 metres into an underground storm drain – where the boy his mum called the “light of my life” wouldn’t have been able to see a thing in his final moments.

Fiona Donohoe with her late son Noah

Fiona Donohoe, posted a picture of herself and Noah's last Christmas together

Noah and Fiona Donohoe in happier times

Fiona Donohoe has had a massive boast having witnessed the thousands who gathered at Belfast City Hall for the Noah protest

Aaron TinneySunday World

Noah Donohoe’s family have revealed the “sweet” boy’s lifelong terror of the dark is the heart-rending reason they had him cremated.

His mother Fiona was so distraught at the idea of her son’s 14-year-old body being locked in a pitch-black casket she chose cremation over having a grave for her boy to visit.

The distressing decision means the family will never be able to have his body exhumed to check new theories about his death – or again probe the fear he may have been attacked by a heroin needle-wielding drug user as he cycled to his grim fate.

His family are convinced Noah’s phobia of the dark is one of the keys to unravelling the mystery of why his corpse was found 950 metres into an underground storm drain – where the boy his mum called the “light of my life” wouldn’t have been able to see a thing in his final moments.

Opening her heart about the ongoing horror over Noah’s death as fury grows over the PSNI’s treatment of the case, his aunt Niamh Donohoe hit out: “That storm drain is at the end of a cul-de-sac. Some people have lived on that cul-de-sac for 20 years and were never aware of that storm drain being there.

“How did he know that that storm drain was there?”

Highlighting how Noah had always been petrified of the dark, the grieving aunt said:

“That is one of the reasons Fiona had him cremated, was because he was afraid of the dark.”

Niamh opened her heart about the nightmare impact of fun-filled, philosophy-loving Noah’s death on his family after floods of supporters – known as Noah’s Army – turned out last week at protests across Northern Ireland demanding Secretary of State Shailesh Vara reverses his approval of a ‘Public Interest Immunity’ (PII) certificate to conceal information in the case.

Noah and Fiona Donohoe in happier times

She said: “Noah was a wee gift – not your average 14-year-old. He was really into philosophy, was teaching himself Japanese and played the cello.

“He was keen on rugby and was in one of the first rugby teams his school St Malachy’s had.

“I think he just wanted to try anything – he loved life. He couldn’t sing, but he was still in the school choir, so that gives you an idea of the sort of wee personality he was.

“He was genuinely just a beautiful soul – a beautiful soul.”

What Niamh calls Noah’s “thirst for life and people” has left the family convinced there was no way he took his life.

She added: “He had a thirst for life and people – he loved to see friends and everybody thought the world of him.

“Anyone that came into contact with him – he did leave an impression on you, just with his wee mannerisms.

“He was just the sweetest wee boy, the sweetest. He just loved to play in the street – he was so innocent, just so innocent.

"He just loved getting out into the street and playing. He was just a wee dote.

“There’s just no words… there’s just no other words. He was just a great wee boy.”

Fiona Donohoe has had a massive boast having witnessed the thousands who gathered at Belfast City Hall for the Noah protest

Niamh also detailed the “profound” effect of Noah’s death on his Strabane-born mum – who had the boy with his estranged Senagalese, US-based dad Emmanuel Djakpa (43) when she was living in Boston in February 2005.

“Noah was Fiona’s only child,” she said. “They just did everything together.

“She described him as her ‘soulmate’. They were each other’s world.

“Noah’s passing has had a profound effect on his mummy. He was her world as I’ve said, and there are the ripple effects of his passing through the rest of the family – it’s changed all our lives.”

More than two years on, Noah’s death in June 2020 is still knotted in a mystery involving right-wing psychologist Jordan Peterson, a stolen rucksack and laptop, missing clothes, heroin addiction, sectarianism, racism, a jail confession, unidentified men lurking at a housing estate, a silver car, CCTV blackspots,

Noah’s body showing no signs of being submerged in a tunnel for six days before he was found, sightings of him walking and cycling naked, online sleuths, tales of a sinister initiation ceremony gone tragically wrong – and now mounting accusations of a police “cover up”.

In August 2020, coroner Joe McCrisken told a preliminary inquest there was “no evidence” to suggest anyone else was involved in Noah’s death and pleaded for “baseless and inaccurate rumours” about what happened to the lad to stop.

But Niamh says she and Fiona’s lives will continue to be consumed with a quest for “transparency” and “truth” – with the boy’s aunt choking back tears as she said they are living their lives in a way “no one would want to” as they would do “anything” for Noah.

She said about her and the boy’s mum dedicating almost every waking moment to running their campaign for full police files on the case to be released through their My Noah Donohoe campaign: “We spend our days just going through information and disclosure.

“That’s been our lives for two years, and that in itself has been an immense struggle in so many ways.

“Noah’s case is probably one of the most complex cases that the professional people involved have ever encountered.

“The details are so complex, and you’d like to the think we were sure of the details, but it’s still so confusing.

“We’re not looking for anything sinister to have happened – we just want the answers.

“Nobody chooses to live their lives like this – nobody would ever choose to live the way we are living.

“Fiona has lost everything, but we will continue to fight, because all we want is the truth.

“We just want the opportunity to go back, and piece our lives back together in some way after this – we will accept the truth, whatever that truth is.

“Fiona is Noah’s mummy and she hasn’t had the opportunity to grieve properly.

“How can you grieve for your baby when you don’t know what happened to him?

“The nightmares will never end. Her life will never be the same again, ever, with or without the answer, but maybe we can learn to live with it.

“Our love for Noah is… we would literally do anything for him and we would always do anything for answers. That keeps us going.”

Fiona Donohoe, posted a picture of herself and Noah's last Christmas together

Fiona and Niamh are plagued by the same mysteries that have eluded the online ‘amateur detectives’ who have become fixated on the case – from why Noah was in a part of Belfast he never usually visited and how could his body end up travelling nearly 1,000 metres through a narrow storm drain system before being discovered with little sign of water damage.

Niamh said: “There are so many things. Going back to the storm drain, there are so many obstructions in that tunnel it would make it difficult for any human being to make their way through that system.

“Every time you read more information and more statements, it’s just a barrage of questions that you just need answers to, and the questions never seem to end.

“We don’t know the truth. We don’t know what happened to Noah and that’s what we’re trying to do – we’re just trying to find the truth.”

“Shortly before he went missing he was seen with no clothes on and was seen falling off his bike.

“I just remember thinking, Noah, if he’s missing, there’s just something not right – we knew then that something wasn’t right.

“He travelled all over the city. The public’s being told there was no third party involvement, that nobody intercepted him, that he removed all his belongings himself and reached a part of Belfast that he wasn’t aware of.

"Noah had no reason to be there, so why was he there?

“Why did he end up cycling naked in a densely populated street in the middle of the day?

“For some reason, instead of turning left where he would have usually turned left, he goes straight on into a part of Belfast he really had no reason to be.”

There are allegations the PII ruling is being used to potentially protect informants, but police lawyers say it is common for forces to apply for the certificates to protect police methodology.

As an online petition called Release The Noah Donohoe Files keeps adding to its 326,974 signatures, Niamh said his family want the decision to

redact files in Noah’s case reversed as other missing persons cases aren’t being treated in the same way.

She said: “It raises so many questions and people are final taking a stand, and they’re angry and they’re demanding this to be reversed.

“If there is something in those files, then Fiona, me, the legal team – we need to see it.

“It’s not full transparency. I know the PSNI has said it is to protect methodology… but there is no need for it.

“Why is it not used in other missing persons cases? Why is it being used in Noah’s if there is no foul play?”

She added about the chance of the much-delayed full inquest giving the family closure:

“We don’t have any faith in the process. We don’t believe it’s going to give us the truth.

“We have already spoken about going for a public inquiry.

"We know that is sometimes difficult to achieve, but we do believe that if the public support and the demand from so many people – not just us, his family – for answers is so strong, it is probably necessary to have a public inquiry.

“We’ll do what it takes to get to the truth for Noah, so we’ll exhaust every avenue that’s open to us.”

Today's Headlines

More Northern Ireland

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos