Five police officers are to be investigated over a St Patrick’s Day hotel crush which left three teenagers dead – after reports the first responders ‘withdrew to await back-up’.
Lauren Bullock, 17, Morgan Barnard, 17, and 16-year-old Connor Currie died near the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, in an incident which witnesses described as chaotic.
Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman is starting a criminal investigation into five PSNI officers for alleged misconduct over the tragedy.
The move comes after the Police Service of Northern Ireland asked the police watchdog to look into the actions of the first officers who arrived at the scene on March 17.
Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said the PSNI will co-operate fully with the investigation.
‘PSNI can confirm that it has been informed by the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, that it is considering whether five police officers who were involved in the initial police response to the dreadful events at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on 17 March this year, have committed the offence of Misconduct in Public Office,’ he said.
‘We have full confidence in the Office of the Police Ombudsman to complete a thorough and independent investigation and we will co-operate fully throughout it.
‘Until this is complete it would be inappropriate to comment further.’
Mr Martin added: ‘Our thoughts remain with the families of Morgan Barnard, Connor Currie and Lauren Bullock who tragically died at the event, and the police investigation into the circumstances surrounding their deaths continues.’
In the wake of the tragedy, which unfolded during a crushing incident in a queue outside a disco, the PSNI revealed that the first officers who arrived at the scene initially withdrew to await support.
The ombudsman’s probe is focused on the actions of those four officers and another officer who was handling calls on the night.
Darragh Mackin, solicitor for the family of Morgan Barnard, said they welcomed the development.
‘There are, and remain, serious questions which must be answered,’ he said.
‘The decision to initiate a criminal investigation exonerates the family’s efforts to ensure that no stone has been left unturned in the pursuance of truth of what happened that night in Cookstown.’