St Patrick's Day deaths: Police response to NI disco crush under investigation

26 March 2019, 13:29 | Updated: 26 March 2019, 15:49

The police response to a disco crush that killed three teenagers in Northern Ireland has been referred to the police watchdog.

The Police Ombudsman watchdog was notified after it emerged the first officers who arrived at the scene of the tragedy withdrew to wait for support.

Three teenagers - Lauren Bullock and Morgan Barnard, both 17, and Connor Currie, 16 - died in the crush outside the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick's Day.

It is understood that police officers have been attacked in the area on previous occasions and initially withdrew amid fears they were entering a potentially hostile environment.

A spokesperson for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin, said the investigation into how the events unfolded is "ongoing" and included a review of the initial police response.

He said: "The first police officers arrived at the hotel grounds shortly after receiving the 999 report.

"Following their initial assessment they made attempts to establish more detail and information about what was happening and subsequently withdrew to await further police support."

He added that the officers moved forward when the first ambulance arrived.

The first emergency call was made at around 9.30pm.

Mr Martin said a further investigation was needed to "fully establish the facts" and therefore it had been referred to the watchdog, although he asked that people do not speculate.

"The confidence of the families and the confidence of the communities we serve are at the forefront of our minds in our decision to refer this matter to the Police Ombudsman" he added.

The families have been told about the referral.

Police in Northern Ireland have been known to be cautious when dealing with large crowds in other night-time scenarios, due to the security situation in the country.

Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire will now have to examine whether the police response was appropriate.

A 52-year-old man was arrested last week on suspicion of manslaughter and later bailed to return for future questioning.

Another man, aged 40, was also questioned on suspicion of manslaughter and released on bail.