herald

Wednesday 13 November 2019

'Help police to find the truth', plead parents of tragic disco-crush teens

Lauren Bullock was a ‘caring, fun-loving’ girl, her family said
Lauren Bullock was a ‘caring, fun-loving’ girl, her family said

The families of three teenagers who died outside a hotel disco in the North have paid tribute to them.

Students Lauren Bullock (17), Connor Currie (16) and Morgan Barnard (17) died after a crush at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, on Sunday.

The families said they were grateful to witnesses who had spoken to the PSNI and urged anyone else who saw what happened to come forward.

"The families want to find out exactly what happened to their children and have asked people to co-operate fully with the police investigation," a police statement said.

"The three families would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to the local community for their support since the tragic events of Sunday night.

"The families would also like to thank the emergency services who responded at the scene and the staff at Antrim Area Hospital."

Morgan's family said they would remember him as loving the simple things in life. "He had a smile for everyone and brightened up the classroom with his humour," they said.

Connor's family thanked the emergency services and members of the public who helped him.

Lauren was described by her family as a "very thoughtful and caring young girl who was outgoing and fun-loving".

Blacken

Meanwhile, police have rejected claims that they tried to blacken the name of the hotel owner.

Michael McElhatton (52) was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. He has since been bailed and will return for further questioning, police said.

Mr McElhatton was further arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply.

He was swiftly "de-arrested" after forensic analysis revealed an unidentified white powder discovered at his home was not a controlled substance.

"I know there is a lot of press speculation about blackening people's names," said Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray.

"Let me be very, very clear here today - that's not what we are about. What we are about is investigating the deaths of three children in a fast-moving, high-intensity investigation.

"And actually the very fact that we moved so quickly for the forensic examination, the very fact that as soon as we got the results we expeditiously made it known to the individual and then we issued the update to the media, I think actually shows transparency."

He added: "No, I'm not going to apologise, but what I am going to do is explain and I think that is only right."

Powder

He said the officer who seized the powder was justified in the "reasonable suspicion" it might have been drugs.

"It was white powder in an unmarked, unbranded clear plastic bag and around that are a number of individual tinfoil pieces which are scrunched up and look like wraps," he said.

He said the forensic lab was unable to identify the substance but it was not controlled drugs.

Hundreds of mourners have left written and floral tributes to the three teenagers whose funerals will be held today.

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