EMBARGOED: 00.00 Thursday 24TH November 2016
Truth established by Police Ombudsman’s findings but conspiracy of silence by former RUC and serving PSNI officers maintains final barrier to justice in US citizen’s killing
Joint statement on behalf of Mrs. Collette Hemsworth, widow of deceased John Hemsworth, and their daughter Danielle, issued through Relatives for Justice (RFJ) and solicitors Flynn & McGettrick following publication of the Police Ombudsman’s report (the full report can be accesses here Police Ombudsman Official Report on the death of John Hensworth) into John Hemsworth’s death following an assault by the RUC.
Collette Hemsworth said:
“This has been an emotionally exhausting journey in establishing the truth and the facts surrounding John’s death and I welcome the report findings by Dr. Maguire.
“I was robbed of my loving husband and my daughter of her devoted father.
Nothing can ever replace that aching gap in our lives. The cherished memories we have of John remain with us every single day. He was a wonderful human being who would not have harmed a living soul and yet he was so cruelly set upon.
“Despite all the heartache of this past 19 years we can finally say that we established the truth for John – that the vicious and unprovoked assault by the RUC on John was the direct cause of his death. In that regard the battle for the truth was worthwhile despite how difficult it was.
Solicitor for the family Mr. Brendan Blaney added: “This new Police Ombudsman’s report comes after inquest findings that also found culpability for John’s death rested with the RUC assault with the matter thereafter being directly referred onto PONI.
Mr. Blaney added: “I had provided legal advice and took initial instructions from John following the assault. However, sadly John died from the injuries he sustained. This fresh report by the Ombudsman, including the independent expert medical report he commissioned, makes that point crystal clear, as did our own commissioned report, that crucially reopened the inquest.
Collette Hemsworth added: “These facts are now indisputable despite efforts in the months and years after John’s death by the RUC and ICPC to bury this truth. Had it not have been for our perseverance and the support of Relatives for Justice and our legal team at Flynn & McGettrick that attempted cover-up would have been cemented with the narrative of John’s death not being attributable to the RUC. He would have been a forgotten victim of the conflict. We are indebted to all for that support.
Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice said: “Sixteen former RUC officers attached to the specialist riot squad that assaulted John were interviewed under caution by the Police Ombudsman. Astonishingly none could recall the incident.
“We find this situation beyond incredible.
Mr. Hemsworth’s daughter Danielle said: “Whilst we welcome the Ombudsman’s findings we are however deeply upset and concerned at the ongoing conspiracy of silence in which the RUC officers responsible have not been identified and as such are evading accountability and ultimate justice. This is unconscionable.
“The family makes an appeal to any of those 16 officers to break that wall of silence and come forward to the Police Ombudsman and provide evidence that identifies those responsible.
“This is a crucial issue that the Chief Constable must immediately address in that some of those possibly involved in my daddy’s death and/or who had knowledge of it and have remained silent continue to serve within the PSNI.
“At the very minimum if these serving officers cannot recall the assault on my daddy, despite numerous investigations and an inquest, then are they really fit to serve as police officers?” ENDS
Please direct all media enquiries to Relatives for Justice & Brendan Blaney of Flynn & McGettrick Solicitors, Belfast. A picture of Collette & Danielle Hemsworth, along with lawyer Raymond Hughes of Flynn & McGettrick Solicitors, and Mark Thompson of RFJ outside the Police Ombudsman’s Offices with the report can be accessed on RFJ’s website; (https://relativesforjustice.com/police-ombudsmans-report-on-john-hemsworth-published-tonight/). Please accredit Relatives for Justice & Flynn & McGettrick Solicitors in quoting from this statement and the photo.
John Hemsworth was a US citizen. He lived in Belfast and was married to Collette and they had one daughter, Danielle was three years old at the time of her father’s death. John had two other daughters to a previous relationship.
On Sunday evening 6th July 1997 John went to St. Gall’s GAA club for the evening. At approximately 1.45am on Monday 7th July 1997 John was attacked by the RUC as he made his way home on foot.
There had been some disturbances between the RUC and nationalist youths following the forcing of an Orange Order march by the RUC through the nationalist Garvaghy Road area of Portadown.
As a result there were no taxis available.
As John made his way home to Conway Street in the lower Falls area he encountered an RUC riot squad in nearby Malcolmson St. who immediately set upon him with their batons including, as noted at the inquest, kicking him as he lay defenceless on the ground.
John eventually managed to get home and then onto the RVH where he was treated for a broken jaw, neck injuries and severe bruising to his body.
The injuries were such that Collette Hemsworth photographed them at the time.
However John began developing severe headaches and was also unable to eat given the injuries to his jaw. A self-employed plumber and heating engineer John was unable to work for a number of months.
John sought legal advice and support following the assault from Brendan Blaney of Flynn & McGettrick Solicitors.
However, on December 27th 1997 John was admitted to hospital with continued head, neck and jaw ache.
On January 1st 1998 John passed away from a major blood clot to the brain.
The family later approached Relatives for Justice who appealed for eyewitnesses to the initial assault as the family was firmly of the view that this attack was connected to John’s death. RFJ documented the case and took some statements.
RFJ, through Dr. Kathleen Cavanaugh of Amnesty International, were also able to access an independent forensic pathologist, and founder of Physicians for Human Rights, Professor Derek Pounder who was willing to examine the case. Instructed by Brendan Blaney on behalf of Collette Hemsworth Prof. Pounder stated that John’s death was as a result of the RUC assault.
An application was made to the UK’s Attorney General who reopened the inquest and an investigation by the RUC, overseen by the then Independent Commission for Police Complaints (ICPC), was also ordered – previously the ICPC exonerated the RUC of any involvement and wrongdoing.
On May 2011 an inquest established that John had died as a result of the attack by the RUC. However, none of the RUC officers present in Malcolmson Street where the attack occurred could recall anyone being assaulted by the RUC.
John’s parents passed away in recent years. John is survived by his wife, daughters, brother and sisters. John’s father, Michael, was a constant in terms of seeking justice for his son’s death. Michael was a true gentleman held in the highest of esteem and respected throughout the community.
Our thoughts are with all the Hemsworth family at this poignantly important time in establishing the truth about John’s death.