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  1. ITV Report

Police defend drugs arrest of hotel owner in Cookstown crush tragedy

Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray speaks to the media about the investigation into the Greenvale Hotel tragedy. Credit: Pacemaker

Police investigating a fatal crush which killed three teenagers at a St Patrick's Day disco in Cookstown have rejected claims they 'blackened' the name of the hotel's owner.

A press conference was held on Thursday following the arrest and then dearrest of 52-year-old Michael McElhatton on Wednesday.

He was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter along with a 40-year-old man following the deaths of 16-year-old Connor Currie, 17-year-old Morgan Barnard and 17-year-old Lauren Bullock in a crush while queuing for a St Patrick’s Day disco.

Police further arrested the businessman on suspicion of Class A drugs with intent to supply after they found a “suspicious package” during a search of his home. The powder turned out not to contain any illicit substance.

Mr McElhatton, who was released on bail as part of the manslaughter investigation on Tuesday night, accused the police of blackening his name.

Responding to his, a senior PSNI officer said police conduct had been 'proper' throughout and they did not feel the need to apologise for the arrest.

Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “I know there is a lot of press speculation about blackening people’s names, let me be very very clear here today.

“That’s not what we’re about. What we’re 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 a forensic examination, the very fact that as soon as we got the results we expeditiously made it known to the individual and we issued the update to the media actually shows transparency.”