Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Suspicious death of woman at Cathedral Quarter flats probed

A forensic scientist examines the scene where a woman's body was found in Hill Street in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter yesterday

A woman has been found dead at an apartment complex in Belfast city centre.

The 49-year-old's body was found at Cooper's Court apartments on Hill Street in the Cathedral Quarter yesterday morning.

Police have described her death as suspicious, but no more details were available late last night.

Cooper's Court consists of one and two-bedroom flats and is run by Helm Housing which provides affordable accommodation for vulnerable people. The block has been operating for four years.

Last night police and forensic officers had cordoned off the building as they searched for clues as to how the woman had died.

Former Lord Mayor Pat Convery appealed to anyone with information to pass it on to police.

Meanwhile it has emerged a dead body was lying in the street for more than three hours as people walked by in Belfast city centre. After being alerted by police a paramedic arrived first to the scene in Franklin Street –just off Great Victoria Street – on Tuesday at around 6.40pm.

But it is understood that after the 41-year-old man was confirmed dead, his body had to remain in the same spot as members of the public walked past for 20 minutes. The victim – called Jackie – was a homeless father-of-two living in a hostel.

The paramedic who was waiting for PSNI officers to cordon off the area is understood to have made repeated radio calls asking where they were. But a police spokeswoman said there "were no delays" adding that a 20-minute wait is "not unreasonable considering the time of day".

Police had attended the man 24 hours before and called an ambulance. He was taken to hospital and later discharged. His death is not being treated as suspicious.

Patricia McKeown, from Unison, the union for ambulance staff, called it "profoundly shocking".

"For the paramedic to be concerned about the length of time he had to wait on officers to arrive is also a sign of the stress and pressure front-line services are under."

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said it was alerted to a call by the PSNI on Tuesday.

It added: "A Rapid Response paramedic arrived at the scene and ascertained that the person had in fact died.

"This information was relayed to the police. NIAS will co-operate with the PSNI in relation to our response to this call and any other issues which may arise surrounding the incident."

In a statement the PSNI said: "Police were informed at 6.57pm that the man had died and arrived 20 minutes later from Lisburn Road, not unreasonable considering the time of day.

"We are not aware of a complaint having been made to the PSNI by a member of the Ambulance Service in relation to a sudden death in Franklin Street, Belfast on September 3.

"Our call management centre received a call reporting a man lying on the ground at 6.42pm on September 3. The appropriate emergency service, an ambulance, was tasked two minutes later."

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