Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Tributes paid to teen with ‘infectious personality’

A four-day search for a missing Newry teenager ended in tragedy on Saturday when the body of 15-year-old John Paul (JP) Smyth was located in the water close to Warrenpoint pier.

JP was last seen around 6.15pm on New Year’s Eve in Warrenpoint where he had spent the day with friends. 

The public was alerted to his disappearance through a police appeal for information, which prompted dozens of civilian volunteers to form search parties, working alongside the emergency services.

Coastguard and Mountain Rescue teams from both sides of the border were also tasked, combing the area for clues as to his whereabouts. 

On Saturday morning it was reported the PSNI had requested the public volunteers to stand down to allow the police investigation to proceed unhampered.  And by early evening the search ended in tragic circumstances when news emerged that the missing teenager had been located.

Hundreds of messages, some from those involved in the searches, were posted on social media expressing sorrow and compassion and offering condolences to JP’s bereaved family and friends.

Tragedy:  St. Paul’s HS student JP Smyth with school principal Jarlath Burns

St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook where JP was a Year 12 pupil, led tributes to the popular young man, described by teachers as “a lovely pupil, friendly and courteous” and with “a bright future ahead of him”.

As news of his sudden and untimely passing emerged, the school issued a statement saying: “The tragic and accidental death of our esteemed Year 12 pupil JP Smyth has shocked and saddened us all. The thoughts and prayers of the entire St Paul’s community go out to JP’s family and friends.  JP’s infectious personality and his friendly smile endeared him to so many pupils and staff at St Paul’s.”

Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon the school Oratory was made available to pupils, their families and members of staff “wishing to gather and remember JP”.

“Support will be available to any pupils who are affected by JP’s death on their return to school on Monday.  If you’ve been affected by JP’s death and wish to talk to someone who can help you, you can contact the Lifeline helpline on 0808 800 8000,” the statement added.

Newry & Armagh MP Mickey Brady extended his sympathy to JP’s bereaved family and friends.

“The tragic death of JP has deeply impacted on the wider community and the thoughts and prayers of all are with those trying to come to terms with his death,” he said. 

“By all accounts JP, a student at St Paul’s High School, was a popular young man.  St Paul’s staff have taken steps to help support any students affected by this terrible loss.

“Finally I would also commend all who have been involved in the search to locate JP.”