Northern Ireland news

Man (40) arrested over Greenvale Hotel deaths fails in court bid to secure release

Police arrested two men on suspicion of manslaughter following the Greenvale Hotel tragedy. Picture by Mal McCann

A man arrested over the deaths of the three teenagers outside the Greenvale Hotel failed today in a court bid to secure an immediate release from custody.

The 40-year-old was detained on Tuesday on suspicion of manslaughter by police investigating the St Patrick's Day tragedy in Cookstown.

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Pace) legislation he can only be held for a limited time before detectives must seek extensions.

Hotel owner Michael McElhatton (52), who was also arrested on Tuesday, was released on police bail on Wednesday night, to return for further questioning at a future date.

The High Court heard that since being detained, the 40-year-old man - who was granted anonymity and referred to as 'XX' - had been taken to hospital twice for psychiatric assessments, accounting for a combined period in excess of 17 hours.

It meant that by the time the legal challenge started he had only been subjected to a maximum of 60 minutes of interviews.

Lawyers for XX claimed a psychiatric assessment does not count as medical treatment which enables the clock to be stopped on the detention period.

Seeking an application for a writ of habeas corpus, they contended that the time he could be lawfully held ran out earlier today.

But Mr Justice McCloskey, sitting with Mr Justice Huddleston, said there was "a fundamental frailty" in the argument.

"We harbour no doubt that the words medical treatment must include, in the context of this challenge, psychiatric assessment or evaluation or examination," he held.

Dismissing the application, the judge said: "We are in no doubt that there's no merit in the applicant's challenge."

With the three teenagers' funerals due to be held today, Mr Justice McCloskey also offered condolences to the bereaved.

He said: "This was a quite appalling tragedy, and the court's sincere sympathies are extended to all of the circle of family members, friends and others who are suffering the aftermath of this truly dreadful loss of life."

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