Belfast Telegraph

Cookstown disco deaths: Hotelier and doorman arrested as police probe crush horror

Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The owner of the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after three teenagers died in the queue for a St Patrick's night disco.

Michael McElhatton and a member of the door staff at the hotel were in police custody last night. Detectives from the PSNI's Major Investigations Team said the men, aged 52 and 40, were arrested yesterday.

Lauren Bullock (17) from Donaghmore, and Morgan Barnard (17) and Connor Currie (16), both from Dungannon, died following the crush at the hotel door as crowds of young people waited to gain entry.

Addressing the media yesterday, head of the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said that officers had already spoken to more than 160 witnesses.

They believe that as many as 400 people could have been at the scene.

He also said it was remarkable police were dealing with just three deaths.

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Connor Currie

"I think we are fortunate, if that's the right word to use in these circumstances, that we are looking at three deaths. We could easily have been looking at many more," he said.

Mr Murray said several parents had expressed concern that their children, who may be under age, were trying to enter a licensed premises.

"That is not going to be an issue," he added.

"I have spoken to the Public Prosecution Service. That should not be an inhibition to any young person coming forward to tell us what they know.

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Lauren Bullock

"Our aim is to establish the absolute facts, to find out how three teenagers came to die at what should have been a celebratory event. That is our absolute focus."

In the course of just over one working day Mr Murray revealed police had already contacted more than 160 witnesses and plan to speak to a large number of them in the next few days.

"There are a large number of witnesses," he said.

"We would ask people to be patient. The investigation has to be given time.

"We have some initial indications as to what has happened. It's obvious there was a crush situation at the door and this appeared to go on for quite a period of time.

"To parents, please talk to your children and support them as we know you will, to come forward and tell their story. That is absolutely critical to us getting an accurate picture of what has happened. We owe that to Connor, Morgan and Lauren to establish the facts."

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Morgan Barnard

There was also praise for those who helped rescue people at the scene.

"We have seen people working hard in the crowd at the door to get other people back on their feet and all credit to them for that," said DCI Murray.

"There are a lot of people who had a very lucky escape that night. This was an event that should have been a celebration and it turned into every parent's worst nightmare."

Books of condolence have been opened in Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt, from where many of those attending the hotel disco hail.

Among those leaving messages of sympathy at the Burnavon Arts Centre in Cookstown, council chairman Sean McPeake said there had been "an outpouring of grief in the local community".

"This is a mechanism for local people to show their respect and feelings for the families of the three young people who lost their lives so tragically last weekend," he said.

Other books of condolence are available at Ranfurly House in Dungannon and the Bridewell in Magherafelt.

A steady stream of people turned up throughout yesterday to give their condolences.

The Education Authority said it had a critical incident team working in five schools across Mid Ulster following the tragedy.

Chairwoman Sharon O'Connor said: "The EA Youth Service has also opened its facilities at Ogras Youth Club in Coalisland, Dungannon Youth Resource Centre and Cookstown Youth Resource Centre and we encourage any young person affected by this tragedy to engage with our youth workers."

Last night the council, health organisations, police, education and community partners met to share information and discuss the co-ordination of support services for young people and their families impacted by the tragedy.

The multi-agency partnership has shared advice for parents, care givers and teachers supporting children and young people after major trauma which families in the immediate aftermath of the events have found beneficial at http://bit.ly/GreenvaleAdviceForParents

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