A hotel owner quickly cleared of drug suspicions has accused police of blackening his name after three teenagers died outside a St Patrick’s Day disco.
Michael McElhatton (52) owns the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone.
He was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of manslaughter. Mr McElhatton was further arrested yesterday on suspicion of possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply.
However, just two hours after announcing his second arrest, the PSNI issued a further statement saying a 52-year-old man had been “de-arrested” following the “fast-track forensic examination of a suspicious package”.
Last night the PSNI said the man had been released on police bail to return for further questioning at a future date.
Mr McElhatton said in a statement: “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.” Lauren Bullock (17), Morgan Barnard (17) and Connor Currie (16) died in a crush outside the hotel.
The hotel owner added: “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.
“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.”
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: “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.
“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.” He said once it was ascertained to be an innocent substance, the suspect was “de-arrested”.
“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,” he added.
The funerals of the three victims will take place tomorrow. Morgan’s funeral takes place at St Patrick’s Church in Dungannon at 10am. It will be followed by that of Lauren at St Patrick’s Church in Donaghmore at 11am, and Connor’s at St Malachy’s Church in Edendork at 2pm.
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