An internal PSNI review into the death of a young Catholic boy in 2020 has revealed that police chiefs cited “financial constraints” and “missing person fatigue” in connection with their response to his disappearance.
The 14-year-old’s naked body was found in a Belfast storm drain, six days after being reported missing in June 2020, prompting questions around the initial police operation.
The PSNI has admitted it refused to pay overtime to members assigned to the search operation, raising fears that systemic sectarianism within the force may have contributed to policing failures in the case.
There are already concerns around the PSNI’s decision to seek a rare public interest immunity — which is usually only ever invoked for matters of ‘national security’ — could withhold the release of files about Noah’s case.
The student had cycled from his south Belfast home through a loyalist area of north Belfast when he disappeared. He had been due to meet friends.
Last week in Belfast, barrister Malachy McGowan, on behalf of Ms Donohoe, referred to the internal PSNI review into its handling of Noah’s case during a preliminary hearing.
He referred to the review conducted last August, “from which we are notified that an issue was raised of financial constraints (not wishing to pay overtime to officers) is identified, as is a concept referred to by Inspector Neil as ‘MisPer Fatigue’ [missing person fatigue].”
Ms Donohoe’s lawyer Mr Murphy said his client is “wounded by this disclosure considering resource clearly was not an issue”.
He added: “What even is ‘missing person fatigue’? This reference is greatly distressing and does a disservice to the long hours of hard diligent work undertaken in the search for Noah.
“Had appropriate resources been deployed at the relevant times, things may not have resolved as catastrophically as they did.”
Sinn Féin MP for the area John Finucane said the latest revelations were “truly shocking and without any justification”.
“My party colleague and policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly MLA will be raising this as a matter of urgency, both at the Policing Board and with the Chief Constable.”