'No resources spared' to find killer of Garda detective

Sat, Jan 26, 2013, 00:00

Resources will not be an issue in tracking down those behind the planned robbery in which Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was shot dead in Dundalk last night, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said today. The detective was gunned down during a botched raid on Lordship credit union in Belurgan, less than half a mile from his home.

Det Garda Donohoe, a father of three in his 40s, died as he approached the raiders in a car outside the premises, about seven miles from the border town of Dundalk, Co Louth.

Gardaí said he was shot without warning and had not drawn his weapon.

A wide police cordon extending for several miles was still in place around the crime scene. Specialist officers from the Garda Forensic and Technical Bureau were combing the area for clues and could be seen scouring the bushes and hedgerows lining the rural roads.

Detectives are still investigating whether subversive elements such as dissident republicans were involved in the murder or whether a criminal gang was responsible.

Speaking to reporters in Dundalk, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said: "There were up to four people involved in the actual raid. How many were involved beyond that will remain to be seen. We will put all our energy towards finding out precisely who was behind this robbery. It is too early to speculate whether there was a subversive element to this or whether they are ordinary criminals."

"Resources will not be an issue. We have many people working on this investigation with the national units assisting the local gardaí. We have the special detective unit the Bureau for Criminal Investigation and all of the specialist units."

The senior officer said the some people had to make tough choices.

"It is an inescapable fact that there are people out there who are aware of who these people are and I would appeal to those people to come forward and help us. This is a cry for help for An Garda Siochana and from the wider society."

Assistant State pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar attended the scene last night and carried out an initial examination before Det Garda Donohoe's remains were removed. A full postmortem will take place later today, a Garda statement said.

A Garda liaison member has fully briefed the Donohoe family. Det Garda Donohoe’s wife, Caroline, is also a garda.

Investigating gardaí in Dundalk appealed for anyone with information about the incident to contact them. A Garda spokesman said they were particularly anxious to speak to anyone who was in the Belurgan, Jenkinstown area between 6pm and 9.30pm last night.

They also appealed for witnesses who may have seen the dark coloured car driving towards Dundalk or possibly onto the M1 after the incident.

Locals in the close-knit rural community said they had been left stunned by the murder of such a well known and popular figure.

Mr Donohoe was originally from Co Cavan, but was stationed at Dundalk Garda station. He was one of two members on escort duty when the incident happened.

It is understood four men were waiting outside to rob the credit union which stays open late on Fridays.

The detective approached the men and a number of shots were fired before they fled in a grey Volkswagen Passat. It is understood Det Garda Donohoe was hit in the head without warning and before he had drawn his garda-issue weapon.

He was pronounced dead a short time later. Although traumatised, it is believed his colleague was physically uninjured.

A massive cross-border hunt has been launched to catch the killers. Specialist gardaí from the Garda Forensic and Technical Bureau have begun a detailed examination of the scene.

A case conference to collate intelligence and other information also got under way at an incident room set up in Dundalk Garda station. Gardaí will brief the media on the investigation later this afternoon.

President Michael D Higgins was among those leading the tributes. He described the killing as a dreadful crime and said all Irish people would be truly appalled.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the murder was an outrageous and appalling act of cold-blooded violence.

He said: “(It) has left a family without a husband and father and the Garda Siochana without a brave and valued member. On behalf of the Government and of the people I would like to express my condolences to Adrian’s wife and children and to all his extended family at this unbearably sad time.”

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said no effort would be spared in bringing those responsible for the murder to justice.

“The Irish people rightly have great respect and admiration for members of An Garda Síochána and the work they do in protecting the community.

“They will share my revulsion and horror that a garda has so tragically lost his life in the course of his duties. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues of Adrian, who lost his life in carrying out his duty in the best traditions of the brave men and women of An Garda Síochána.”

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was "appalled and deeply saddened".

"Our communities are only safe because of the valued work of An Garda Síochána. The death of Detective Garda Donohoe is an unacceptable crime and the perpetrators of it must be brought to justice," he said.

Sinn Féin councillor Jim Loughran, who knows the Donohoe family, said: “Our whole community is in shock. This garda was admired, trusted and respected by all in the locality. He and his young family are part of the daily life of the area. We want to express our heartfelt sympathy to the garda’s family, friends, colleagues and neighbours at this sad time."

The Lordship Credit Union, where the killing took place, was described as a hub of the small community.

It is believed staff were locking up when the incident happened. Councillor Declan Breathnach said it was not unusual for it to remain open late into the evening.

“It would be fairly busy on a Friday evening, with some people just getting their week’s pay or wanting to sort out money for the weekend,” Mr Breathnach said.

“This was just such a despicable, heinous act. I still can’t believe it but I utterly condemn it.”

Mr Donohoe is the first garda officer to be killed in 17 years.

Detective garda Jerry McCabe was also on escort duty when he was shot dead outside a post office in Co Limerick in 1996.

His widow Ann said: “I have to sympathise with the family and the shock they are going through.”

A book of condolence has been opened at Dundalk garda station where the murdered officer was based. Former colleagues and members of the public have been attending the station with floral tributes and leaving messages of support for the Donohoe family.