Northern Ireland news

PSNI 'invited politicians to view picture of white powder' taken from Michael McElhatton's home

Greenvale Hotel owner Michael McElhatton insisted he had "nothing whatsoever to do with drugs"
Connla Young

POLITICIANS were invited by the PSNI to view a picture of the white substance seized from the home of Greenvale Hotel owner Michael McElhatton, a councillor has revealed.

Police were criticised last week after the 52-year-old was arrested and then 'de-arrested' just hours later when the powder was found to be innocent.

He was first detained last Tuesday on suspicion of manslaughter following the deaths of three teenagers, Morgan Barnard (17), Lauren Bullock (17) and Connor Currie (16), after a crush outside his Cookstown hotel on St Patrick’s night.

On Wednesday afternoon police announced that he had been "further arrested on suspicion of possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply" after detectives searching his home in Moneymore "seized a quantity of suspected Class A drugs".

Just two hours later, however, police said Mr McElhatton had been "de-arrested" after fast-track forensic analysis of a "suspicious package consisting of a white powder substance and tin foil" had ruled out the possibility of dugs.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton insisted police acted "in good faith and in line with procedure".

It is believed the substance was a cleaning product which Mr McElhatton took to his home from the hotel in a plastic bag.

He was later released on police bail, to return for further questioning at a future date.

Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray

In an unusual move, it is understood that local politicians were invited to attend a PSNI station last Thursday morning where they could view a photograph of the recovered substance.

The SDLP's Denise Mullen, chair of the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership, refused the invitation.

She said she was contacted at around 8.30am but didn’t believe it was necessary to attend the station.

She said she was told by police that other political parties had already visited.

“I don’t have a trained eye to know whether it was drugs or washing powder,” she said.

“They made a mistake and didn’t really handle the fall-out that well.”

In a statement last week, Mr McElhatton insisted he had "nothing whatsoever to do with drugs" and claimed police had “blackened my name”.

At a press conference in Belfast last Thursday, Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, who is head of the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch, refused to apologise.

SDLP councillor Denise Mullen

“Everything that happened in relation to that arrest and seizure is what we normally do,” he said.

Asked last night about the invitation to politicians, police said District Commander Superintendent Mike Baird and Senior Investigating Officer Superintendent Richard Campbell "met with a number of local elected representatives last Thursday morning at Dungannon Station".

Supt Baird said: “The purpose of the meeting was to provide them with an update to the investigation into the tragic deaths of three teenagers at the Greenvale Hotel.

“We will continue to carry out a rigorous investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these three young people and we are deeply grateful for the huge assistance and support we have received from the community and elected representatives.

"We hope that people will continue to come forward and assist us with this enquiry.”

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