Belfast Telegraph

Coroner concern at run-down premise

A senior coroner has raised serious concerns about the dangers of dilapidated buildings in Northern Ireland.

John Leckey said more must be done to ensure run-down premises are properly secured.

He was speaking during an inquest into the death of Christopher Connor, whose body was found in a derelict hotel on the north coast.

Mr Leckey said: "There are many, many issues in Northern Ireland about derelict premises and it may be that resolution at ministerial level is the only way forward."

Mr Connor, a 20-year-old barman from Drumard Drive, Coleraine, died after a night socialising in Portstewart. His body was found two days after he disappeared just before Christmas last year. It was discovered by his cousin Simon Creighton in the disused Montague Arms Hotel on Portstewart's Promenade.

Coleraine Courthouse heard how Mr Connor had been heavily intoxicated and was four times over the legal drink-drive limit. He was refused alcohol by nightclub staff. Two days later Mr Connor's lifeless body was discovered in an abandoned hotel. There was a small amount of blood on his face, but PSNI Detective Sergeant Soren Stewart said there was nothing to suggest he had been the victim of an assault.

A post-mortem examinationdetermined the cause of death as bruising and swelling of the brain associated with a fractured skull. In his report, deputy state pathologist Dr Peter Ingram concluded that the head injury could have been caused by falling backwards and said death would not have been immediate.

Mr Connor's family has previously spoken of their anger that the hotel, which is privately owned and went into administration last year, was not adequately secured. In court Mr Stewart, who had led the investigation, said he had also deemed the building unsafe and requested help from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and mountain rescue teams with the removal of the body.

The coroner said he would write to Coleraine Borough Council and the Montague Arms administrators to raise his concerns. He said: "Why he (Christopher) went into the derelict building we will never know. But the fact that he was able to get into the derelict building raises concerns. I propose to write to the local authority and to the administrators and if I do not get a reply or if it is inadequate I will refer it to the minister."

Speaking outside the court, Mr Connor's father, also called Christopher, said his son's death could have been easily prevented. He said: "If the window had been blocked up it would not have mattered if there was a gate there or not, you couldn't have got into the place. At the end of the day, £60 of chipboard could have saved my son's life."

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