Irish Republican News · June 6, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
RUC killed U.S. citizen in 1997, inquest finds

A coroner is to prepare a file for the Public Prosecution Service after an inquest found that an American father-of-one died from injuries inflicted by the PSNI police (then the RUC) in 1997.

The director of public prosecutions will decide whether a new inquiry should be held into the attack on John Hemsworth, who died from a stroke six months after he was beaten by riot police in west Belfast in 1997.

Mr Hemsworth was left with a broken jaw and bruising to his neck and back following the assault. He suffered a stroke six months later and died on New Year’s Day 1998, at the age of 39.

The attack happened during a night of rioting in west Belfast linked to the Drumcree dispute in Portadown, where the RUC attempted to force a sectarian Orange Order parade down the nationalist Garvaghy Road.

Coroner Brian Sherrard described the inquest jury’s findings as “a bleak day” for the RUC.

The inquest in Belfast heard that Mr Hemsworth, who had been living in west Belfast, had not been involved in the violence that erupted close to Springfield Road RUC Station.

The inquest -- the third after two previous hearings were abandoned -- heard that the victim was beaten and kicked by riot police who attacked him as he made his way home after a night out.

The jury also found it was “highly probable that one or more officers” had caused the injuries which “were most probably the underlying cause of his death”.

Mr Hemsworth’s widow, Colette, and his father Michael welcomed the coroner’s actions and said they hoped justice will “finally” be done years following years of setbacks with two previous inquests being abandoned.

“John was an American. He was an easygoing guy and he had no malice towards anybody,” his father said.

The family had waited 14 years for an inquest and “Colette met a lot of road blocks put up by the authorities,” Mr Hemsworth said.

In 2000 a coroner ruled that an inquest was not required after two pathologists said there was no connection between the attack and Mr Hemsworth’s death.

The attorney general later ordered an inquest should take place after evidence from two senior pathologists suggested the attack was the “sole direct underlying cause” of his death.

Relatives for Justice director Mark Thompson said the fatal attack was “unprovoked, unwarranted, unjustified and an example of the worst days of policing”.

He compared it to the assault and subsequent death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests in London two years ago.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in England has decided to prosecute the London policeman who hit Mr Tomlinson with a baton and pushed him to the ground. The newspaper seller suffered a fatal heart attack soon after the assault.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News