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Derelict hotel where Christopher Connor died boarded up after Belfast Telegraph highlights danger

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 08/01/2016

The secured building yesterday
The secured building yesterday
Laura Connor holds a picture of Christopher

A grieving woman's plea to make safe the disused building where her only brother died has been agreed to, hours after it was highlighted in the Belfast Telegraph.

Replacement boarding around the former Montague Arms Hotel in Portstewart was erected yesterday.

Christopher Connor (20), from Coleraine, was found dead in the building after a night out in the seaside town.

He fell and hit the back of his head when he somehow entered the empty property after he left the Havana Club on December 17, 2011.

Fearing a repeat of the accident, his sister Laura Connor pleaded for something to be done about access to the site.

Mr Connor's body lay in the former hotel building for two days before his cousin discovered him.

The death of the young man just days before Christmas shocked the north west community, and many people called to lay wreaths outside the property in Church Street in respect.

This paper can reveal that the property's new owners have plans to redevelop it into commercial premises and apartments.

A spokeswoman for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council confirmed: "This site is under private ownership, however the council is aware a planning application has been submitted and is under consideration."

Coleraine councillor Maura Hickey said: "It may have been the case that the owner, who is from the north west area, may not have known that the boarding had been taken down. It's good to know that it's been put right."

But Ms Connor said last night that even when the building was demolished, she would never be able to return to the town. "We are pleased that the boarding has been put up by whoever owns the building, but it's sad that it had to take me going to the papers to have this put right," she added.

"It's good to know that the building is also to be redeveloped, but me or my children will never be back again - there are just too many bad memories."

The Connors have never recovered from the shock of Christopher's death in the disused property.

After being tipped off that the building could be accessed because some of the boarding had been removed, Laura raised the alarm and called for the site to be made safe.

Senior coroner James Leckey had urged at Mr Connor's inquest that more should be done to ensure that the building was properly secured.

Ms Connor said that her family did not know how or why Christopher entered the empty property because that was not established at his inquest in 2012.

But they believe that in a disorientated condition after drinking, he may have mistakenly thought that he was re-entering the Havana Club bar before he hit his head and died on his own a short time later.

She added: "Christopher was such a lovely, hard-working young man and he always had a big smile of his face - he would have a grin from ear to ear.

"We were very close, and although I was only two years older than him, I was like his second mummy.

"He could do no wrong in my eyes."

Belfast Telegraph

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