Cookstown hotel owner says name ‘blackened’ by police

Man ‘de-arrested’ on drugs offence after ‘white powdery substance’ declared ‘innocent’

Michael McElhattan, owner of The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, pictured on Monday. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Michael McElhattan, owner of The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, pictured on Monday. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

The owner of the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown outside of which three teenagers died on St Patrick’s night has complained of his name being “blackened” by police following his further arrest and then “de-arrest” for suspected possession of class A drugs.

Michael McElhatton (52) was arrested along with a 40-year-old man on Tuesday on suspicion of manslaughter over the deaths of Lauren Bullock (17) Morgan Barnard (17) and 16-year-old Connor Currie.

They died when they got caught in a crush as some 400 young people sought entry to a disco at the Greenvale Hotel on Sunday, St Patrick’s night.

There was a development on Wednesday when the PSNI issued a statement saying that a 52-year-old man was further arrested on suspicion of possession of a class A drug with intent to supply.

Police did not name Mr McElhatton, owner of the Greenvale Hotel, but said the drugs were found following a search of a house in Moneymore, Co Derry, which is just five miles from Cookstown and is where Mr McElhatton lives.

On Thursday evening, however, the police issued a correcting statement saying that detectives had “de-arrested a 52 year old man, who was arrested earlier today on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply”.

“This follows fast track forensic examination of a suspicious package consisting of a white-powder substance and tin foil, found during a search of a house in Moneymore,” added the PSNI. A further statement clarified that the substance found was “innocent”.

One well-placed source understood that the substance was either washing powder or bicarbonate of soda.

The confusion prompted Mr McElhatton to issue a statement rebutting the original claim of drugs possession.

“While I wished to respect the ongoing investigation by the police into the tragic deaths of the three young people at the Greenvale Hotel on St Patrick’s night, I have no choice but to make it completely clear that I have nothing whatsoever to do with drugs,” said Mr McElhatton.

The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tryone. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
The Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tryone. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

“I can assure everyone that whatever any suspicions the police have raised about me in relation to anything to do with drugs is totally without any basis,” Mr McElhatton added.

“I am shocked and horrified that the powdery substance taken by police from the laundry in my house could be drugs,” he said.

“Despite there being no basis to these suspicions, they have blackened my name and caused so much upset for so many people, especially those who are grieving and distressed over the events at the Greenvale Hotel,” Mr McElhatton said.

The hotel owner and the 40-year-old remain in custody in relation to the allegation of manslaughter.

The funerals of Morgan Barnard, Lauren Bullock and Connor Currie take place in three Catholics churches in Co Tyrone on Friday.