First police withdrew from Greenvale Hotel after St Patrick's night crush
THE first police at the scene of a hotel crush which claimed the lives of three teenagers left the area without offering help.
The PSNI yesterday confirmed that it has referred itself to the Police Ombudsman after it emerged that police initially attended the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick's night before withdrawing.
Morgan Barnard (17), Lauren Bullock (17) and Connor Currie (16) died after a crush outside the hotel as they queued to get in.
A major police investigation has since been launched.
In a statement issued after a series of questions were posed by The Irish News, Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said “the first police officers arrived at the hotel grounds shortly after receiving the 999 report”.
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When asked previously, police told The Irish News that officers arrived on the scene one minute after receiving the first call.
Mr Martin confirmed that after arriving on the scene police pulled out again.
“Following their initial assessment they made attempts to establish more detail and information about what was happening and subsequently withdrew to await further police support,” he said.
When asked how long it took officers to return to the area last night police refused to answer, saying that was a matter for the Police Ombudsman.
However, in his statement Mr Martin said: “When the first ambulance arrived police moved forward in support of them.”
A spokesman for the ambulance service has confirmed that it received its first call about the incident at 9.26pm on March 17 and that its first ambulance crew arrived at the scene around five minutes later.
Mr Martin said that Chief Constable George Hamilton decided to refer the matter to the Police Ombudsman.
“The timing and nature of police actions during this period require further investigation to fully establish the facts,” he said.
“The Chief Constable has therefore decided that the initial police response should be subject to independent scrutiny and it is in the public interest to refer the circumstances and the nature of the actions of the first officers arriving at the scene to the Police Ombudsman.”
The senior officer said the confidence of the families of those who died and the community “are at the forefront of our minds in our decision to refer this matter to the Police Ombudsman”.
“We will work with the Ombudsman to support whatever action he undertakes and would ask that people do not speculate or prejudge the outcome of the Ombudsman’s investigation,” he said.
Independent councillor Barry Monteith last night said “this is a major issue, it has major implications”.
“It goes right to the core of the credibility of any statement coming out of this investigation,” he said.
“This is one of the most grave and serious investigations into police conduct in recent years when you talk about the implications of what may or may not have occurred and what may and may not have been done to save lives.
“This will undoubtedly further traumatise the community.”
Sinn Féin MP for Mid Ulster Francie Molloy welcomed the intervention of the ombudsman.
“The heart-broken families of the three teenagers have a right to expect a full, thorough and comprehensive investigation,” he said.
“It is important nothing distracts from this process and that the investigation refocuses on determining what happened so the families get the necessary answers.”
The Police Ombudsman appealed for witnesses.
A spokesman said: “Our thoughts are with the families who have been so tragically bereaved.
“Our investigators have now begun gathering information about the initial sequence of events, and have appealed for witnesses to contact them. They are keen to hear from anyone who saw police in the area of the Greenvale Hotel on St Patrick’s evening, 17 March.
“Our investigators can be contacted by email at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It would be helpful if anyone contacting us can include a contact telephone number in their email.”