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RUC linked to assault death Belfast man John Hemsworth

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 24/11/2016

Injuries: John Hemsworth
Injuries: John Hemsworth

New evidence has been uncovered about an attack on a man who died six months after he was allegedly beaten by an RUC riot squad.

John Hemsworth was assaulted in the early hours of July 7, 1997 in west Belfast. He was subsequently admitted to hospital and died on January 1, 1998.

Before his death Mr Hemsworth (39) alleged RUC officers had carried out the attack.

Two subsequent police investigations were unable to confirm this.

However, in 2011 an inquest found it was "highly probable" they were responsible for the injuries which contributed to his death

New evidence has now come to light after an investigation by the Police Ombudsman.

It places Mr Hemsworth in the same location as police officers at the time of the assault.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire said it confirmed the conclusions of the inquest.

Mr Hemsworth was born in Kearney, New Jersey, but, after a few years, his family moved to Northern Ireland.

The July 1997 assault took place following a night of trouble in west Belfast.

Springfield Road police station had come under repeated attack from petrol bombs and missiles. The RUC had deployed the 'blue section' of its Operational Support Unit.

Mr Hemsworth was making his way home following a night out. He later alleged that as he was walking along Malcolmson Street, off the Springfield Road, police assaulted him.

Although injured, he got to his home in Conway Square. His wife advised him to go to hospital, where he was treated for a broken jaw and then discharged.

He later provided a brief account of what happened to his solicitor, who began to gather information prior to making a complaint about police.

Following Mr Hemsworth's death his solicitor lodged this complaint, which was investigated by police.

A post-mortem examination proved inconclusive.

In January 1999 police reported that they had found no evidence to support the allegations.

In 2011 a coroner concluded "it was highly probable that one or more officers of the RUC Operational Support Unit blue section was responsible for the injuries to Mr Hemsworth". The PSNI then referred the matter to the Police Ombudsman's Office.

Investigators traced witnesses, who placed Mr Hemsworth in Malcolmson Street around 1.45am when police officers from blue section were present.

Dr Maguire added: "The medical evidence is that the injuries sustained by Mr Hemsworth were the sole underlying cause of his death in 1998.

"Further, the available evidence leads me to conclude that those injuries were sustained as a consequence of Mr Hemsworth being assaulted by police officers."

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