Sunday 21 April 2019

Cookstown tragedy: Around 400 people were waiting to get into disco when crush happened - detectives

  • CCTV shows around 400 people were outside the venue at the time of the incident
  • 'We know you might be scared, but we need you to come forward' - detective
  • 'The focus of our investigation is not the age of the people who were at the event' - PSNI
Lauren Bullock (17), Morgan Barnard (17) and Connor Currie (16) were killed in the tragedy
Lauren Bullock (17), Morgan Barnard (17) and Connor Currie (16) were killed in the tragedy
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

The PSNI’s serious crime branch are investigating the planning and organising of a St Patrick’s Day event in a Tyrone hotel where three teenagers died during a crush.

Lauren Bullock (17), Connor Currie (16) and Morgan Barnard (17) from Dungannon in Co Tyrone, died in the tragedy at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on Sunday night.

A number of people were also injured in the crush which investigators say went on for a number of minutes.

To date the PSNI has identified 160 people who were present, and have spoken to several of them, but believe as many as 400 people were either inside the hotel or in the car park on the night of the tragedy. 

Detective Chief Supt. Raymond Murray speaking to media at Dungannon PSNI Station following the deaths of three teenagers at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown.
Pic Steve Humphreys
Detective Chief Supt. Raymond Murray speaking to media at Dungannon PSNI Station following the deaths of three teenagers at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown. Pic Steve Humphreys

Parents have raised concerns that their children attempted to gain entry to the premises that day, but the PSNI have said this is not an issue in the investigation and should not prevent teenagers from coming forward with information.

Det Chief Supt Raymond Murray, head of the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch, also said the way in which the event was organised and managed “is part of the fundamentals of the inquiry.”

Saddened: Greenvale Hotel owner Michael McElhatton expresses his grief over the incident. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Saddened: Greenvale Hotel owner Michael McElhatton expresses his grief over the incident. Photo: Kyran O’Brien

At a press briefing at Dungannon Police Station this morning, the Serious Crime Branch chief said: “This is an investigation but first and foremost it is a tragedy for the families of the young teenagers who died at the hotel and we think today of 16-year-old Connor Currie and 17-year-old Morgan Barnard who are both from the Dungannon area and we think about 17-year-old Lauren Bullock.

“It has turned into any parents worst nightmare and the thoughts of myself, the investigation team and the police service are with them.”

The senior investigator said preliminary inquiries showed that a lot of people had "a lucky escape on the night."

To date 160 witnesses have been traced by the PSNI, but investigators believe as many as 400 people were present at the Greenvale Hotel on the night.

Kyra Coyle, a friend of victim Connor Currie, and her mother Mary bring flowers to the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone. Picture: Tony Gavin
Kyra Coyle, a friend of victim Connor Currie, and her mother Mary bring flowers to the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone. Picture: Tony Gavin

“It is our aim to speak to all of those people if we possibly can,” Det Chief Supt Murray said.

He added that parents have raised concerns that their children were attempting to gain entry into a licensed premises on the night and were afraid to come forward.

“That is not an issue in this investigation, it should not be an inhibition to any person coming forward and telling us what they know, and I’ve agreed that with the (prosecution) director.

“The absolute focus in this investigation is about finding out how three teenagers came to die at what should have been a celebratory event and what happened before that, and what happened during that,” he said.

The PSNI serious crime chief said that a crush situation happened, which lasted for a number of minutes, at one of the entrance doors leading to the function room.

Investigators will look at how the event at the Greenvale Hotel was run and how it was organised as part of the “long and complex” investigation.

Asked if the hotel could have done anything to prevent this from happening, Det Chief Supt Murray said he would not comment on that at this stage “because that is part of the fundamentals of the inquiry.”

“I think we are fortunate, if that’s the right word to use on these circumstances, that we are looking at three deaths, a bad enough and horrendous tragedy, but we could easily have been looking at more. We have seen people in the crowd working hard to try and get people who have fallen down back onto their feet.”

“We have looked at some of the initial CCTV imagery so it was certainly ongoing for quite a number of minutes. We have CCTV coming in from different angles so what we want to do is put all of that together and get us a holistic picture before we comment further.”

“The issues around the planning around the event, the management of the event, the staffing of the event, are all key aspects of the investigation. The investigation is designed to try and uncover the facts and bring us to conclusions about how this event came to take place and how this tragedy unfolded.”

The PSNI have not yet been able to conclude exactly how many people were injured, with many not seeking hospital treatment at the time. 

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