The owner of the Greenvale Hotel Michael McElhatton has accused the PSNI of having “blackened my name” after he was arrested and then “de-arrested” over drug claims.
Mr McElhatton, who is still being questioned on suspicion of manslaughter after three teenagers died outside a St Patrick’s Day disco in Cookstown, was further arrested on suspicion of possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply.
However, in a statement issued at 6pm on Wednesday, the PSNI said the man had been “de-arrested”.
“This follows fast track forensic examination of a suspicious package consisting of a white-powder substance and tin foil, found during a search of a house in Moneymore,” said a police spokesperson.
Police said the 52-year-old and a 40-year-old man remain in custody on suspicion of manslaughter.
A statement by Michael McElhatton said: “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.
“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.”
In a further statement released by the PSNI at 7.33pm, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: “Further to our statement on the arrest earlier today of a male in connection with a Class A drug we would like to add the following clarification.
“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. 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.”