Northern Ireland news

Cookstown: 'My daughter was screaming for help'

As the details around the Greenvale Hotel tragedy emerge, the mother of one teenager, who has asked to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her daughter, recalls her harrowing account of the horrific events that unfolded and the sense of helplessness felt by onlookers.

Students from Holy Trinity College leave flowers outside The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association

ON Sunday night my 17-year-old daughter left the house, laughing and carefree, for a St Patrick's night out with her friends.

She returned home just hours later, in tears and shaking, having witnessed scenes that no child, or adult for that matter, should ever have to.

But she did come home - and for that I am thanking God - but three young people did not and their families are having to deal with the horror.

The evening had begun so normally.

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If you live in Armagh/Portadown as we do, Cookstown is the 'place' for youngsters to go for a night out.

My daughter's friends had come round to our home to get ready. They had pizza and we sat and chatted at the kitchen table before I left them to the bus.

They hadn't been sure which disco to go but had opted for the Greenvale as most of their friends were going there.

All the arrangements were in place. One of the other mums was picking them up from the bus and they were to phone when they were leaving.

The victims: 


My daughter asked me not to let her sleep too long the next day as she had a lot of school work to do.

As I dropped them off, I gave her a hug and said, as I always do, 'Have a good time and be careful'.

As a parent, you are keenly aware that even the most 'sensible' teenagers need reminding of this before they head out for the night.

Less than two hours later, the phone rang. My daughter was panicked and tearful, asking if I had heard what had happened - they all had to go home, someone had died, nobody knew what was going on.

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One of the friend's parents was already en route to get them, they would be home soon.

At that early stage - it was just after 10pm - I didn't know what exactly was happening but I knew it was serious.

As the night wore on, the gravity of the situation started to become apparent, with the Cookstown PSNI Facebook page clocking up more shares and comments by the second.

But it was only when she arrived home that the true nightmare scenario became clear. The story came out between gulps and sobs.

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So what did take place? All I can relate is what happened to her.

She and her friends were standing back because of the size of the crowd at the entrance and were thinking of going somewhere else because it was taking so long to get in.

The next sequence of events happened very quickly - her friend alerted her to a young lad being pulled out of the crowd at the front by his friends.

He was face down and his friends were trying to rouse him, and getting increasingly upset when they couldn't.

Realising the seriousness of the situation, my daughter and her friend ran for help and were "screaming" for assistance, they felt in vain. All of this is something that police will need to investigate.

They ran back and, at this point, attempts were being made to resuscitate the boy.

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There are other upsetting details which I will not share here but which my daughter will be sharing with the police.

Elsewhere, there was what sounds like pandemonium.

Many of the children didn't know what was happening, and were trying desperately to find their friends. There were rumours circulating of stabbings and deaths, which only increased the panic.

My daughter wants to make a statement to police. Because she is angry, angry that young people with their whole lives ahead of them have died needlessly.

These are children on the cusp of adulthood - learning to drive, starting to consider universities and career choices, getting their first taste of working life in part-time jobs.

Many of them will be traumatised by what they experienced on Sunday night and will need love, support and understanding over the coming months.

Counselling also needs to be made available to those who need it.

My daughter lost some of her innocence on St Patrick's night.

But three other young people lost their lives.

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