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Woman warns derelict Montague Arms hotel where brother died still danger to public

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 07/01/2016

Laura Connor at the back of the old Montague Arms where her brother Chris was found dead in 2011
Laura Connor at the back of the old Montague Arms where her brother Chris was found dead in 2011
Chris Connor

A sister has pleaded for a disused building where her 20-year-old brother died to be properly boarded up to protect others.

The body Christopher Connor was found five years ago in the former hotel in Portstewart.

Mr Connor died after a night socialising in the town. He was found by his cousin two days after he disappeared in the disused Montague Arms on Portstewart's Promenade.

Despite a coroner raising concerns about the public being able to access dangerous, dilapidated buildings, it has now emerged that boards on the derelict hotel have been ripped off.

"My brother lost his life because that building was lying open. For the public's safety, it should be boarded up and not be lying open," his distraught sister Laura told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It's a disgrace. There's already been one life lost there because no one seemed to care enough to cover the premises up for the passing public."

The Connor family believe that Christopher - who was due to join the Army - may have thought he was going back into a nightclub when he stumbled into the derelict building and then hit his head.

His sister's words of warning echo a call from a senior coroner at Mr Connor's inquest in 2012, who urged that more should be done to ensure rundown premises are properly secured.

Local SDLP councillor Maura Hickey has promised that she will represent the family's interests and make sure that the premises are made secure as soon as possible.

Ms Connor claims it is easy to get into the rear of the building, as boarding has either come away or been pulled off.

"Neither me nor my parents have ever been back into Portstewart since Christopher died. We couldn't pass that building or go anywhere near it," she said.

Mr Connor hit the back of his head when he somehow entered the building on Church Street on the night of December 17, 2011.

He died shortly afterwards, but his body was not discovered until two days later.

The only son of Theresa and Christopher Connor from Coleraine, Mr Connor had been socialising in the Havana Club - now under new ownership - when he was put off the premises by security staff.

Ms Connor said: "We don't know how Christopher ended up there as he had been drinking in the Havana Club that night.

"We were told he had fallen asleep in the club and had been put out through the fire exit.

"But I've seen the footage of him leaving, though my mum and dad have never seen it. He looked like a zombie in it, he was still half-sleeping.

"He was put out into a dark street where there were no lights working. The only thing that we can think of is that because he had been drinking and was disorientated, he thought he was walking back into Havana, maybe to get his coat, and he fell on stairs in the disused building.

"He hit the back of his head and died within a hour. There was no drugs in his system, no evidence of him being harmed, so we clearly think that is what happened to Christopher.

"Please don't let this happen again to anyone else. This building needs to be boarded up now," she added.

Councillor Hickey has promised to ensure that the premises are made secure as soon as possible and will be in contact with the owners, who plan to redevelop the building as a commercial property.

"I can understand where the Connor family is coming from and their concerns as I recall Christopher's death as a very tragic one at the time," she said.

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