John Hemsworth: Police Ombudsman Appeal

Published Date: 20.03.2014

Police Ombudsman investigators will this afternoon (Thursday, 20 March) mount an appeal for information in west Belfast in connection with the death of a man in the area more than 16 years ago.

John Hemsworth, aged 39, had been a United States Citizen who was living with his wife at Conway Square in west Belfast.  He died almost six months after an incident involving police officers.

Police Ombudsman investigators will be in the Conway Mill between 3pm – 9pm today (Thursday, 20 March) and have appealed for anyone with information about that incident to contact them.

Before his death, Mr Hemsworth complained about what had happened to him. It is believed he had been in Malcolmson Street in the early hours of 7 July 1997 on his way home from St Gall’s GAA Club, when an incident took place in the vicinity of he Springfield Road Police Station.

There had rioting in the area that evening and petrol bomb attacks on the station. Elsewhere in Northern Ireland, tensions were high following the latest developments at Drumcree in Portadown.   

Following the incident, it is believed Mr Hemsworth made his way home and from there to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was kept overnight and treated for a broken jaw.

Mr Hemsworth became unwell later that year, was admitted to hospital and died on New Years’ Day 1998.  

His family then made a complaint about police conduct to the Independent Commission for Police Complaints – the forerunner to the Police Ombudsman’s Office.   The Police Ombudsman’s Office also considered the matter in 2006.

However, when the Inquest into Mr Hemsworth’s death began in 2009, it found that the previous examinations and investigations did not consider photographs Mrs Hemsworth had taken of her husband’s injuries the day after he returned from hospital.

The Inquest concluded that Mr Hemsworth’s death was linked to injuries he had received that night.

The matter was then referred to the Police Ombudsman’s Office for a fresh investigation.

Police Ombudsman investigator Cameron Riley said his team intends to carry out a thorough investigation of what happened.

“We will be examining all the evidence from the previous investigation and in particular the material which came to light at the Inquest.  We will speak to the police officers on duty in the area that night and  to soldiers who were there. We will also examine all the existing police documentation and other material, such as radio transcripts.

But it is important that if any member of the public saw what happened that night and has not already provided a statement to the previous investigations, that they do so. We plan to be in the Conway Mill all evening and would ask them to come along and speak to us,” he said.


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