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Cookstown disco deaths: Arrested hotel owner released on police bail

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image copyrightEuphoria Allstar Cheerleading/Family/Edendork GAC
image captionLauren Bullock, 17, Morgan Barnard, 17, and 16-year-old Connor Currie, died after the incident

The 52-year-old hotel owner who was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after three teenagers' deaths has been released on police bail.

The three people died after a crush outside the Greenvale Hotel, Cookstown.

Michael McElhatton was first arrested on Tuesday. He has been bailed and will return for "further questioning at a future date", police said.

He was also de-arrested in relation to an arrest on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply.

Mr McElhatton, who was arrested on the drug suspicion on Wednesday, said in a statement that he had "nothing" to do with drugs.

'Blackened my name'

In his statement issued earlier in response the drugs arrest, Mr McElhatton said: "While I wished to respect the ongoing investigation by the police into the tragic deaths of the three young people at the Greenvale Hotel on St Patrick's night, I have no choice but to make it completely clear that I have nothing whatsoever to do with drugs.

"I can assure everyone that whatever any suspicions the police have raised about me in relation to anything to do with drugs is totally without any basis.

"I am shocked and horrified that the powdery substance taken by police from the laundry in my house could be drugs.

"Despite there being no basis to these suspicions, they have blackened my name and caused so much upset for so many people especially those who are grieving and distressed over the events at the Greenvale Hotel."

Lauren Bullock, 17, Morgan Barnard, 17, and Connor Currie, 16, died after a crush in the queue for a disco at the hotel on St Patrick's Day.

Two days later, Mr McElhatton was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter along with a 40-year-old man, who remains in custody.

image copyrightPA
image captionGreenvale owner Michael McElhatton

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said police carried out a search at Mr McElhatton's property on Wednesday following his arrest.

"The search discovered a medium size clear polythene bag containing an amount of a white powdery substance and pieces of tin foil," said Mr Hamilton.

"This discovery led to the suspicion that the substance was a Class A drug. In line with normal procedure, the suspect was arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply. This arrest was communicated to the media in line with procedure.

"Given the gravity of the investigation the examination of the bag was carried out urgently. Once opened by the Forensic Science Agency for Northern Ireland the substance inside the bag was ascertained to be an innocent substance.

"The suspect was then de-arrested, in respect of the drugs offence, and a communication made to the media."

He said the PSNI "would like to make it clear that there is no suspicion of any crime relating to misuse of drugs on behalf of the person who still remains in custody".

"The actions taken were in good faith and in line with procedure. We will continue to carry out a rigorous investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these three young people and we are deeply grateful for the huge assistance we are receiving from the community and we hope that people will continue to come forward and assist us with this enquiry."

Some 400 people were outside the venue during the crush, police have said.

The funerals for the three teenagers will be held on Friday.

Officers are examining CCTV footage of the incident and have appealed for any mobile phone footage or photographs of the crush to be passed to the investigators.

They have asked people in possession of images not to publish them online but to upload them to the Major Incident Public Portal.

'Major incident'

The hotel was hosting a St Patrick's Day party on Sunday night and a large group of young people were queuing to get into the disco at about 21:30 GMT.

The emergency services were called to the hotel after reports that several teenagers had been injured in the crush.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service declared it a major incident and police, firefighters and environmental health staff rushed to the scene.

'Support offered to young people'

Lauren Bullock was a pupil at St Patrick's College in Dungannon while Connor and Morgan attended St Patrick's Academy in the same town.

Support has been offered to young people affected by the tragedy.

The funeral for Morgan Barnard will take place at St Patrick's Church, Dungannon, at 10:00 GMT on Friday.

Separately, the funeral for Lauren Bullock will be held at St Patrick's Church in Donaghmore at 11:00 GMT, with the funeral for Connor Currie taking place at St Malachy's Church, Edendork, at 14:00 GMT.

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