Northern Ireland news

Immense sadness as communities try to come to terms with Cookstown tragedy

A mother and daughter sign the book of condolence at the Burnavon Centre in Cookstown. Picture by Mal McCann
Mairead Holland

STUNNED, shocked and most of all deeply sad - that was the prevailing mood in Dungannon and Cookstown yesterday as people struggled to process what had happened in their tightly-knit communities.

Books of condolence were opened at the council-run Ranfurly House in Dungannon and Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre in Cookstown as well as at St Patrick's Church in Dungannon.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley was among those to use the opportunity to express her condolences in Cookstown.

Chair of Mid Ulster Council Sean McPeake signs the book of condolence in Ranfurly House in Dungannon. Picture by Mal McCann

Mid-Ulster council chairman Séan McPeake, speaking from Ranfurly House, said the area was still in a "state of shock".

"We've opened up the book of condolence as some kind of outlet for people to show their empathy and sympathy with the families of the three young people who so tragically lost their lives," he said.

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Mr McPeake said the council would do everything in its power to help the police investigation into the deaths.

"The PSNI are leading on the investigation. We're very much central to that also and we're putting the necessary resources into facilitating all that."

He added that many young people are grieving and the aim is to reach all of them, including those from outside the district, who attended Sunday night's event and had been affected by the tragedy.

"We have to ensure that those young people are being facilitated with counselling and the opportunity to... express their views on what happened that night," he said.

"Cookstown is a real mecca for nightlife and it is a real shock that this could happen."

Mr McPeake, who had earlier been at the Burnavon centre, also said the PSNI was holding drop-in sessions there so that teenagers who witnessed what happened did not have to go to a police station.

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"There was a queue of students from the regional college signing there this morning," he said.

"We would encourage teenagers to talk to police and let the police know exactly what happened on that tragic night."

Dungannon butcher Brendan Lowe. Picture by Mal McCann

Dungannon butcher Brendan Lowe said the whole community was devastated at the loss of three of its young people.

Speaking from his shop in the town's Market Square, he said people coming in couldn't believe what had happened.

Mr Lowe's daughter is in the same class at St Patrick's College as Lauren Bullock and he said his heart went out to her family.

Another man, who didn't wish to be named but was signing the book of condolence at Ranfurly House, said he also knew the Bullock family.

"The community is just dumbfounded, it's an awful tragedy," he said.

"I just wanted to come and let the families know I am thinking of them."

Book of condolances being signed in Ranfurly House in Dungannon for the three young people who lost their lives at the Greenvale Hotel Picture Mal McCann.

Also signing the book in Dungannon was 25-year-old Shane Quinn from Donaghmore. He said he used to go to the Greenvale when he was young.

"It's absolutely tragic what happened and it shouldn't have happened," he said.

In Cookstown, Bernie Lennon, who lives in nearby Kildress, wanted to put down on paper her sympathies for the young people and their families.

"There are no words, it's just so sad, a real tragedy - three little angels," she said.

Among the tributes left at St Patrick's Church were: "Sleep tight three precious little angels in the arms of the Holy Family."

Another read: "Schools, clubs and the whole community plunged into grief as a result of this tragedy, but none more so than your loving families and friends."

Book of condolances being signed in Ranfurly House in Dungannon for the three young people who lost their lives at the Greenvale Hotel Picture Mal McCann.

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