Northern Ireland news

Police Ombudsman investigating claims PSNI 'misled' parents of teenager who died in Greenvale Hotel tragedy

Connor Currie (16), Lauren Bullock (17) and Morgan Barnard (17) died during a crush outside the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown
Connla Young

THE Police Ombudsman is investigating allegations that the parents of a teenager who died in the Greenvale Hotel tragedy were 'misled' by police.

Morgan Barnard (17), Lauren Bullock (17) and 16-year-old Connor Currie were killed in a crush as they queued to get into the Cookstown venue on March 17 last year.

Details came as ombudsman officials met the parents of the three teenagers yesterday to brief them on progress.

Ombudsman Marie Anderson has widened her investigation after it emerged that PSNI reports linked to the case have not been sent to the Public Prosecution Service almost a year after the schoolchildren died.

Ms Anderson has also agreed to investigate a complaint “alleging a lack of progress in the police investigation”.

After the tragedy Greenvale owner Michael McElhatton and a 40-year-old man, believed to be a member of the hotel’s door staff, were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

Both were later released on bail.

Greenvale Hotel, Cookstown

In June last year Mr McElhatton was again questioned over three days before being freed pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

Police said last month that files are also being prepared for the PPS on seven other men interviewed by police.

The complaints were made by solicitor Darragh Mackin, of Phoenix Law, who acts for Morgan Barnard's parents, James Bradley and Maria Barnard.

A letter to the ombudsman confirms that Morgan’s parents claim they “have been misled as to the current position with regards to the file being sent to the Public Prosecution Service regarding Mr McElhatton”.

Mr Mackin added that a PSNI officer involved in the investigation, who contacted his office, also said that “the expected timescale from the PPS was at the end of this year” adding that this information was then relayed to the clients “in good faith”.

A spokesman for the ombudsman last night said: “We have received a complaint alleging a lack of progress in the police investigation, and an allegation that police provided misleading information by suggesting that a file had been submitted to the Public Prosecution Service.

“We are now investigating these matters.”

The ombudsman is also investigating seven officers in relation to the case.

Five are being investigated for the potential criminal offence of misconduct in public office and two about possible breaches of police procedures.

Former chief constable George Hamilton referred the PSNI to the ombudsman after it emerged that four officers withdrew from the scene.

It later emerged that they did not intervene for 16 minutes.

Mr Mackin wrote to Justice minister Naomi Long over concerns about delays in the case. However she said she is unable to meet the family while investigations are ongoing.

After the family meetings yesterday Ms Anderson said the seven officers have been interviewed.

She added that “investigators had progressed a substantial number of enquiries”.

“These include the examination of data relating to the telephone calls made to police by people at the Greenvale Hotel on the night of the tragedy and the movements of police in the area,” she said.

“Police Body Worn Video footage has been reviewed, and we are also examining all relevant police documentation recordings of police radio communications.”

She said that when the investigation is completed a file will be sent to the PPS and a report will be provided to the Coroner’s Office.

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