Garda says botched Securicor robbery was frightening

Inquiry into shooting of Real IRA member Rónán MacLochlainn hears further evidence

File photograph of the funeral of Real IRA member Rónán MacLochlainn in Dublin. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh

File photograph of the funeral of Real IRA member Rónán MacLochlainn in Dublin. File photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

A detective has described having a shotgun pointed at her during the botched cash-in-transit robbery that led to the death of Real IRA member Rónán MacLochlainn as among the most frightening moments of her Garda career.

Mr MacLochlainn (28), from Ballymun, Dublin, was shot dead by gardaí during an attempted armed robbery of a Securicor van at Cullenmore Bends near Ashford, Co Wicklow, on May 1st, 1998.

A commission of investigation into the fatal shooting continued on Wednesday, with evidence from a detective and a detective sergeant attached to the Garda National Surveillance Unit.

The evidence of the two gardaí, who cannot be named, had been given in private and was read into the record.

The detective said that she had been on duty and part of a team of gardaí that were keeping a number of vans passing through the area under surveillance.

When one of the vans stopped on the road, the detective said she adopted a “wait and see approach”.

After receiving a radio call that a Securicor vehicle was approaching, the detectives “felt it was possibly at risk, as it was heading towards where the van was parked”.

She said there was “no reason” to stop the Securicor van and she received no orders to do so.

The detective said that, at this point, a car pulled out in front of gardaí. A man emerged with a shotgun and pointed it at the Garda car.

“I got an awful fright when the gun was pointed at the car,” she said.

The detective, who was in plain clothes, attempted to raise the alarm via her radio without arousing the suspicion of the gang, while another detective, who was driving the Garda car, did a U-Turn and moved back from the Securicor van.

She said that gardaí from the Emergency Response Unit then arrived on the scene and fired 12 shots.

None of the six-member gang, who were armed with a sawn-off shotgun, magnum revolver and assault rifle, fired any shots.

‘Too traumatised’

Speaking about a debrief that took place the day after the incident in the presence of then Garda commissioner Pat Byrne, the detective said she had not discussed the events of the day with colleagues as she was too traumatised.

“I was still in shock,” she said. “I don’t remember much detail. I felt certainly the gun was pointed at me.

“I took it very personally. I had been conscious that I wasn’t wearing a bullet-proof vest.”

The detective sergeant said his initial thoughts upon seeing the van stop in the road was that “something was going to happen”.

“My initial thoughts were kidnapping,” he said. “I suspected they were going to drag someone from a car. I didn’t suspect Securicor at that time but when I saw it, it made sense.”

The detective sergeant also said that, as he was making his way to the scene, he spoke briefly with the garda who shot MacLochlainn dead moments before the shooting began.

The detective sergeant said that when he arrived on the scene, there was a body on the road with a jacket covering it.

When the ambulance crew arrived, they made “further attempts” to resuscitate the man but failed.

The hearing continues.