Sunday 25 August 2019

We want the truth, say parents of disco crush teen

PSNI forensic officers pictured outside The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown. Photo: PA
PSNI forensic officers pictured outside The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown. Photo: PA
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

The parents of one of the three teenagers who died in a suspected stampede at a disco have said serious questions must be asked about the actions of the PSNI.

Lauren Bullock (17) from Donaghmore, Morgan Barnard (17) and Connor Currie (16), both from Dungannon, died following the crush at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown as crowds of young people gathered on St Patrick's Day.

The following week, the police response to the tragedy was referred to the Police Ombudsman (PONI), after it emerged the first officers who arrived at the scene withdrew to await support.

In their first sit-down interview, the parents of Morgan Barnard questioned if his life could have been saved. Speaking to BBC News NI, Jimmy Bradley and Maria Barnard said they wanted the truth.

"We want to get to the absolute truth, from start to finish, the absolute truth and accountability from whoever that may be," Mr Bradley said.

"And of course prevention in the future, so this doesn't happen to another young person.

"There are questions to be answered after the police arrived, those questions are with the ombudsman who is going to come to a conclusion and not an opinion.

"If those questions don't get to the truth for myself, Maria and Morgan, well then it may well be the case that we need an independent inquiry to get to the truth of why our son died at the Greenvale Hotel that night."

Last week, the couple received an apology from PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton for comments about the initial police response. In April, Mr Hamilton described the actions of the first officers on the scene as "brave", though he added there were "questions to answer" as to why they held back to await support.

Mr Bradley and Ms Barnard said they found his comments extremely hurtful. But after a private meeting with the couple, the chief constable offered his sincere condolences.

"I regret if any of my past comments caused distress, that was never intended. Investigation into tragic deaths at Greenvale Hotel continues. I await PONI's report into initial police response."

Irish Independent

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