Sunday 21 April 2019

First officers who arrived at scene of Cookstown disco crush tragedy 'withdrew to await support'

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
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The police response to a hotel disco crush that killed three teenagers in Northern Ireland has been referred to the Police Ombudsman watchdog, after it emerged that the first officers who arrived at the scene of the tragedy withdrew to await support.

On Tuesday, PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin confirmed that a review of the initial police response had resulted in the decision to involve the Ombudsman’s Office.

“The ongoing investigation into the tragic events at the Greenvale Hotel is active and wide ranging,” he said.

“As part of that investigation, it is right and proper that the actions of all those involved are considered.”

Outlining the response on the night in question, Deputy Chief Constable Martin said: “The first police officers arrived at the hotel grounds shortly after receiving the 999 report.

“Following their initial assessment, they made attempts to establish more detail and information about what was happening and subsequently withdrew to await further police support.

“When the first ambulance arrived, police moved forward in support of them.”

He added: “The timing and nature of police actions during this period require further investigation to fully establish the facts.

Lauren’s coffin is taken from St Patrick’s Church in Donaghmore. Photo: PA
Lauren’s coffin is taken from St Patrick’s Church in Donaghmore. Photo: PA

“The Chief Constable has therefore decided that the initial police response should be subject to independent scrutiny and it is in the public interest to refer the circumstances and the nature of the actions of the first officers arriving at the scene to the Police Ombudsman.”

The families affected by the tragedy have been informed of the development.

Hundreds of people turned out last week for the funerals of the three young victims - Morgan Barnard and Lauren Bullock, both aged 17, and 16-year-old Connor Currie.

Deputy Chief Constable Martin said: “The confidence of the families and the confidence of the communities we serve are at the forefront of our minds in our decision to refer this matter to the Police Ombudsman.

Funerals are being held today for Morgan Barnard ,17, Lauren Bullock, 17, and Connor Currie, 16.
Funerals are being held today for Morgan Barnard ,17, Lauren Bullock, 17, and Connor Currie, 16.

“We will work with the Ombudsman to support whatever action he undertakes and would ask that people do not speculate or prejudge the outcome of the Ombudsman’s investigation.”

The families said they are grateful to witnesses who have spoken to the PSNI so far and urged anyone else who saw what happened to come forward and give their account to investigators.

A police statement issued on behalf of the families said: "The families want to find out exactly what happened to their children and have asked people to cooperate fully with the police investigation.

"The three families would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to the local community for their support since the tragic events of Sunday night.

"The families would also like to thank the emergency services who responded at the scene and the staff at Antrim Area Hospital."

Morgan's family said they will remember him as loving the simple things in life.

"He volunteered for a number of things including working at the local Cancer Research shop," they said.

"He always had a smile for everyone and brightened up the classroom with his humour."

Connor's family thanked the staff at Antrim Area Hospital, paramedics, ambulance staff, PSNI and members of public who helped him.

Lauren was described by her family as a "very thoughtful and caring young girl who was outgoing and fun loving".

Michael McElhatton, 52, who owns the Greenvale Hotel, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. He has since been bailed and will return for further questioning in future, police said.

A 40-year-old man was also questioned by police.

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