Hotel owner arrested after St Patrick’s Day crush tragedy slams police over false drug claims
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Hotel owner arrested after St Patrick’s Day crush tragedy slams police over false drug claims

THE OWNER of the hotel three teenagers died outside of on St Patrick’s Day has hit out at police after he was arrested and “de-arrested” on drug charges.

Michael McElhatton, who has been released by the PSNI but awaits further questioning on suspicion of manslaughter, was previously further arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply.

Students Lauren Bullock, 17, Connor Currie, 16, and Morgan Barnard, 17, all from Dungannon in Co Tyrone, died outside a St Patrick’s Day disco at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown last Sunday, March 17th.

McElhatton and another man, believed to be a member of the popular nightspot's door staff, were subsequently arrested.

A routine search of the hotel owner’s home saw the 52-year-old arrested on drugs charges but a fast-track forensic analysis ruled out the possibility.

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McElhatton has accused the PSNI of having “blackened” his name with the claims.

“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,” a statement read.

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

“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.”

Hotel owner arrested after St Patrick’s Day crush tragedy slams police over false drug claims.

The PSNI has also issued a statement regarding the matter, via Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton.

“As a consequence of the arrest of a person on suspicion of manslaughter a search was carried out at the home of the suspect. The search discovered a medium size clear polythene bag containing an amount of a white powdery substance and pieces of tin foil," it said.

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“This discovery led to the suspicion that the substance was a Class A drug. In line with normal procedure the suspect was arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply. This arrest was communicated to the media in line with procedure.

“Given the gravity of the investigation the examination of the bag was carried out urgently. Once opened by the Forensic Science Agency for Northern Ireland the substance inside the bag was ascertained to be an innocent substance. The suspect was then de-arrested in respect of the drugs offence and a communication made to the media.

“Given the gravity of the investigation the examination of the bag was carried out urgently. Once opened by the Forensic Science Agency for Northern Ireland the substance inside the bag was ascertained to be an innocent substance. The suspect was then de-arrested in respect of the drugs offence and a communication made to the media.

“The PSNI would like to make it clear that there is no suspicion of any crime relating to misuse of drugs on behalf of the person who still remains in custody.

“The actions taken were in good faith and in line with procedure. We will continue to carry out a rigorous investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these three young people and we are deeply grateful for the huge assistance we are receiving from the community and we hope that people will continue to come forward and assist us with this enquiry.”