Court told detective died in hail of bullets fired from Kalashnikov


DET Garda Jerry McCabe died in a hail of 15 bullets fired from a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a ballistics expert told the Special Criminal Court yesterday.

Det Garda Michael Keating, of the Garda Ballistics Section, said 10 bullets struck the unmarked Garda car in which Det Garda McCabe was the passenger and another five may have passed through the broken driver- and passenger-door windows. They were 7.62 x 39mm bullets.

Det Garda Keating was giving evidence on the fourth day of the trial of four men accused of the capital murder of Det Garda McCabe (52) during an abortive post office van robbery at Adare, Co Limerick, on June 7th, 1996. The four facing capital murder charges are Mr Pearse McCauley (34), from Strabane, Co Tyrone, with no fixed address, and three Co Limerick men, Mr Jeremiah Sheehy (36), of Abbey Park, Rathkeale; Mr Michael O'Neill (46), of Lisheen Park, Patrickswell; and Mr Kevin Walsh (42), also of Lisheen Park.

They have pleaded not guilty to the capital murder of Det Garda McCabe and to the attempted murder of his colleague, Det Garda Ben O'Sullivan.

They also deny having firearms with intent to endanger life at Adare, conspiracy to commit a robbery, the possession of assorted ammunition with intent to endanger life, the unlawful possession of arms at Clonolea, Toomevara, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, on June 7th, 1996, and having three shotgun cartridges at Clonolea on the same date.

Mr John Quinn (30), of Faha, Patrickswell, has denied having ammunition at Patrickswell, on June 6th, 1996, and to conspiring between June 5th and June 8th, 1996, to commit a robbery at Adare.

Det Garda Keating said he examined the blue Mondeo Garda patrol car in which Det Garda McCabe was shot. The driver's window and the passenger front and rear windows were broken and he recovered 15 discharged cartridge cases from around or under the car.

He found a large quantity of copper bullet-jacket fragments on the path which were consistent with rounds of ammunition fired from an AK47. He also examined a Lancer car which was abandoned near Granagh, Co Limerick, and found one 7.62 x 39mm bullet on the rear seat.

He said he carried out a reconstruction of the trajectory of 10 shots which had struck the car. The bullets were fired from the driver's side.

One entered the driver's door mirror and ended up in the passenger door pillar. Another entered the driver's door, passed through the centre of the steering wheel and lodged in the upholstery of the front passenger door. A third entered the window frame at the driver's door and exited near the passenger door.

The fourth entered through the window frame of the driver's door and was stopped by the driver's side pillar. The fifth entered the plastic window trim in front of the driver and passed through the driver's side of the windscreen.

The sixth entered the driver's side windscreen pillar and stopped, and the seventh entered the windscreen in front of the driver's position and probably exited through the passenger window.

The eighth entered the edge of the driver's window frame and probably exited through the passenger's window. The ninth entered the driver's window panel and was stopped by the passengerside centre pillar. The 10th entered the driver's side window and exited through the front passenger-side door.

He said the bullets would have struck both detectives. They would also have been struck by dozens of minute projectiles caused by the bullets breaking up.

Det Sgt Brendan McArdle said he examined 109 rounds of 7.62 x 39mm ammunition found in the Mitsubishi Pajero used by the raiders. This was the type used in the Kalashnikov rifle. The AK47 or the AKM held 30 bullets in its magazine. It could be fired in either semi-automatic mode or fully automatic mode. He testfired the rifle in fully automatic mode and discharged 15 rounds in 1.6 seconds. He also test-fired the rifle on fully automatic and was able to fire seven bursts of two rounds and one of one round. He could control the rate of fire with a gloved finger.

The trial continues.