Northern Ireland news

Police waited 16 minutes to act at Greenvale Hotel tragedy

Connor Currie (16), Lauren Bullock (17) and Morgan Barnard (17) died in a crush outside the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick's night
Connla Young

Police officers who attended the scene of the Greenvale Hotel tragedy which claimed the lives of three teenagers failed to intervene for 16 minutes, it can be revealed.

Morgan Barnard (17), Lauren Bullock (17) and Connor Currie (16) died after a crush outside the Cookstown venue on St Patrick’s night.

The Irish News can reveal that officers who responded to an emergency call sat in their vehicles in the hotel car park for five minutes as the tragedy unfolded, before they withdrew.

They did not return for 11 minutes, during which time the first of the three victims is believed to have been pulled from a ‘surging’ crowd of teenagers near the hotel entrance.

It can also be revealed that the PSNI decision to pull out of the carpark was taken by an officer in one of two patrol cars after a telephone conversation with the hotel’s owner Michael McElhatton.

The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown

In the aftermath of the tragedy police seized CCTV footage from the hotel and this has helped investigators piece together the shocking events of March 17.

It is believed the part of the telephone conversation said to have taken place between Mr McElhatton and a police officer was recorded by the hotel's own CCTV system inside the premises.

It has now been established that four police officers went to the venue in two separate vehicles, with two officers in each, after an emergency call was made.

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The precise timings of what happened the night the three teenagers died were communicated by police to the parents of Morgan Barnard - James Bradley and Maria Barnard - during the course of several meetings in recent weeks.

It is understood that the grieving parents were originally told that officers withdrew from the hotel because missiles had previously been thrown at police in the area and the couple were under the impression that was also the case on the night their son died.

James Bradley

However, it is believed police have recently accepted that no missiles were thrown on St Patrick's night when questioned by the family’s solicitor Darragh Mackin.

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During a meeting last month PSNI chief constable George Hamilton apologised to Morgan’s parents after he described the officers who left the scene as “brave”.

Police have publicly said they made attempts to establish more detail about what was happening and withdrew to await support, before moving in when the first ambulance arrived.

It is believed that the officers who initially responded were aware that an ambulance was on its way to the hotel and that further emergency calls were being made.

It is known that after withdrawing from the hotel grounds officers waited on the nearby Drum Road before returning to the venue on foot when an ambulance arrived at 9.45pm - a full 16 minutes after they had first attended.

CCTV footage appears to show a youth, believed to be Morgan Barnard, being carried from a 'surging' crowd by other young people and hotel bar staff at 9.40pm - five minutes before police returned with an ambulance crew but 11 minutes after they were initially on scene.

It is believed he was the first of the three victims to be pulled from the crowd, which police say numbered around 600.

On arrival at the hotel, emergency crews were met with harrowing scenes as the full scale of the tragedy was becoming apparent.

It is now known that two paramedics desperately fought to save Morgan's life in the back of their ambulance, which was driven to Craigavon Area Hospital by a PSNI officer.

It has also been established that both the PSNI and Ambulance Service received emergency calls.

In total police received three calls while 19 were made to the Ambulance Service.

Morgan's father James Bradley last night asked if lives could have been saved.

“It is now clear that there are real questions to be asked arising out of the events that night," he said.

"We need to know if our son and other children's lives could have been saved.

"These are the questions that need answered.”

The family's solicitor Darragh Mackin said: “It is every family’s worst nightmare.

"However this nightmare has been compounded by the fact that questions have now been raised which go to the heart of whether this tragedy could have in fact been prevented.

"It is now imperative that a full and effective investigation is conducted into the events of the Greenvale so the family can get to the truth, and get the answers to the crucial questions as to whether these tragic events could have in fact been prevented."

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