Quarantine hotel escapee who crept out of his room for an eight-hour pub and McDonald’s crawl before sneaking back in blames the stress of his father’s death
- Paul McElhinney walked out of the Grand Chancellor medi-hotel on August 3
- NSW resident had returned from Scotland after attending his father’s funeral
- He spent eight hours in the Adelaide CBD drinking and visited a McDonald’s
- McElhinney has pleaded guilty to breaching Emergency Management Act
- He told the Adelaide Magistrates Court he had been overwhelmed with grief
A hotel quarantine escapee who sneaked out of his room for an eight-hour pub crawl and McDonald’s run says he was grief-stricken over the death of his father.
Paul McElhinney, 33, strolled out of the Grand Chancellor medi-hotel on Hindley Street in the Adelaide CBD via the fire escape on the evening of August 3.
The NSW man had flown into South Australia on a repatriation flight from Singapore on the way home from his father’s funeral in Scotland.
McElhinney appeared in Adelaide Magistrates Court on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to breaching the Emergency Management Act.
Paul McElhinney, 33, (pictured) walked out of the Grand Chancellor medi-hotel on Hindley Street in the Adelaide CBD on the evening of August 3
Police alleged it took the 33-year-old seven seconds to leave his room and enter a fire exit before making his way down to the hotel basement and outside.
His escape was caught on CCTV but the cameras were not being monitored by staff at the time and there was no alarm on the fire exit.
Once in the basement carpark of the hotel, McElhinney was approached by two police officers who were not on medi-hotel duties.
He was able to convince them he was a patron from a nearby pub and had been forced to flee the noise due to his ADD.
The 33-year-old then went to the Duke of York Hotel in Currie Street where he drowned his sorrows from around 10pm to 6am.
He ended the night by hitting McDonald’s on Hindley street and sneaked back into his hotel room about 6am on Friday.
South Australian Police then became aware there had been a breach.
Police have alleged it took the 33-year-old seven seconds to leave his room and enter a fire exit before making his way down to the Grand Chancellor Hotel (pictured) basement and outside
On Wednesday, McElhinney apologised to the court and said he was overwhelmed with grief when he breached the medi-hotel security.
The police prosecutor said McElhinney was so drunk he was in no position to explain himself to officers after the hotel breach, The Advertiser reported.
‘He did tell police… that he had returned from his father’s funeral and hadn’t seen his family in eight weeks and he could’ve just cracked,’ they said.
McElhinney was fully vaccinated and tested negative on day one, five and nine of his time in quarantine.
He also tested negative after his eight-hour escape to the pub and McDonald’s.
Magistrate John Fahey remanded McElhinney in custody until his next court appearance next week.
‘This is serious offending… and you’ve heard it suggested that the only appropriate penalty is jail and I think that might be the case,’ he said.
Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the incident highlighted failures in the state’s medi-hotel security protocols.
He said the isolated incident was partly due to the proximity of the escapee’s room to the fire exit and his convincing lies to police.
‘This is a security breach which should not have happened,’ he said.
‘It’s disappointing that it did happen and it happened as a result of two specific failings and an issue in terms of how the fire exits are being managed.’
Commissioner Stevens said nine recommendations had already been enforced within the medi-hotel system after an investigation into McElhinney’s escape.
On Wednesday Mr McElhinney (pictured) apologised in the Adelaide Magistrates Court and acknowledged he had done the wrong thing by leaving the quarantine facility
He said the incident was a case of human error and staff made a series of minor mistakes that could have had significant consequences for South Australia.
The commissioner also acknowledged the officers who confronted McElhinney should not have accepted his story on face value.
‘They (staff) made relatively minor mistakes and as I said, those mistakes would have led to potentially significant consequences had this person been Covid-positive,’ he said.
‘We’re not stepping away from the fact that this should not happen.’
Chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier told The Advertiser the brazen escape surprised her.
‘I think the guy showed a lot of ingenuity, but it’s certainly important that we work out how it happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again,’ she said.