Development & Alumni Relations Office 

John Leckey, LLB, LLM (died 5 August 2021, aged 72)


As well as the below obituary provided by Margaret Donaghey on behalf of John's wife Janet, an obituary was published in the Irish Times which can be viewed at the following link:


It is with deep regret that I record the death of John L Leckey who sadly passed away on 5th August 2021 following a lengthy battle with cancer. It is also with humility that I approach the writing of this obituary for someone so widely regarded as John.

After leaving Friends’ School in Lisburn John began his Law studies at Queen’s University in 1967. In the following year he met Janet, also an undergraduate at Queen’s. They both graduated on 5th July 1971 and got engaged on that same day. Marriage followed on 6th January 1973. John was a dedicated family man, a loving, caring husband and a proud father of their two sons, Simon and Peter.

Following graduation John qualified as a solicitor and became a partner in a local law firm. In 1984 he was appointed Deputy Coroner for Greater Belfast and in 1992, when he was appointed Coroner full-time, he left private practice. In 2006 he became Senior Coroner for Northern Ireland, a post he held with distinction until his retirement in 2015. In 1997 John was appointed as the first Northern Ireland Commissioner to the newly set up Criminal Cases Review Commission. Later, in 2002 he was appointed as a Parole Commissioner. In recognition of his outstanding public service he was awarded Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, by the University of Ulster and in the same year he received the Graduate of the Year award from Queen’s University. 

The quality of the tributes paid to John by those who had worked with him and from many whom he had met whilst presiding over numerous complex and contentious inquests, are evidence of the high regard in which he was held. His kindness, patience and the respect he showed to bereaved families were typically acknowledged by Michael Gallagher, father of Aiden Gallagher, who died in the Omagh atrocity. Michael described John as, a gentleman who ran inquests in a courteous, professional and compassionate manner’. ‘He was hugely professional and respectful. He was a great person’.

John left a legacy of his experience as a coroner in his book on Coroner’s Law and Practice in Northern Ireland, a book described by the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan as ‘a much respected and valuable source for coroners and practitioners alike.’ 

In addition to his demanding profession John was able to enjoy wide interests such as music, theatre, travel  and church; he also gave service through membership of a range of organisations, a few of which were, Friends of the Ulster Museum, Cancer Focus, Radius Housing, Halifax Foundation NI and a Queen's Ethics Committee. Opportunities offered by such commitments provided an antidote to the grim realities of his work as a Coroner. A past Captain of Greenisland Golf Club he regularly enjoyed both local and away days with his four-ball partners. He and Janet also travelled widely but sadly the Covid pandemic curtailed their travel retirement plans even before cancer might have done.

I was privileged to visit John and Janet ten days before John’s death. He was open, frank and accepting of his condition which he had borne stoically throughout. Until the end he remained the kind, considerate and humorous gentleman he had always been, reminding Janet she should make sure his death certificate was accurately completed, a task he had done for so many others throughout his service.

John’s final wish was for a private family cremation. Donations in his memory were to Queen’s University Foundation for Prostate Cancer Research, his final act of gratitude to the consultant who had cared for him and to his Alma Mater.

I should like to end by quoting a poem by Robert Burns, read at John’s funeral service:

An honest man here lies at rest,

The friend of man, the friend of truth,

The friend of age, and guide of youth:

Few hearts like his, with virtue  warm’d

Few heads with knowledge so informed;

If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;

If there is none, he made the best of this.


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