Scene of Rónán MacLochlainn shooting was ‘total chaos’

Journalist Valerie Cox gives evidence to commission of investigation into incident

The late Rónán MacLochlainn’s partner Gráinne Nic Gib arriving for a hearing in September of the commission of investigation into his fatal shooting. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The late Rónán MacLochlainn’s partner Gráinne Nic Gib arriving for a hearing in September of the commission of investigation into his fatal shooting. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

An RTÉ journalist who came upon the scene of a botched cash-in-transit robbery in which Real IRA member Rónán MacLochlainn was shot dead said the situation was “total chaos”.

Valerie Cox, who at the time of the events in 1998 was working for RTÉ’s Five Seven Live programme as well as Morning Ireland, was giving evidence to a commission of investigation into the fatal shooting.

MacLochlainn (28), from Ballymun, Dublin, was fatally injured during an attempted armed robbery of a Securicor van at Cullenmore bends in Ashford, Co Wicklow, on May 1st 1998.

Ms Cox, who lived nearby, told the commission she happened to be in the area and found herself in a traffic jam in the late afternoon.

She got out of the car and began walking to the front of the traffic jam. She described the scene where the botched robbery had occurred as “total chaos at the time”.

Body covered

She said that when she reached the scene, there was “very little direction”. She said she witnessed a body on the ground covered with a tarpaulin. She did not recall any tape or cordon on her arrival.

She said there “very few gardaí around” at that stage and recalled some of them smoking which she said she found “very odd”.

Ms Cox said she contacted RTÉ and was later contacted for the Five Seven Live programme, for which she delivered a news report. She recalled being told not to say “anybody is dead” on air for fear of reporting this information prematurely.

Ms Cox said she did not witness an ambulance, anyone wearing a balaclava or any weapons at the scene.

She recalled there being a red car in a ditch near the body and said there was damage to some of the cars at the scene.

‘Very upset’

“There were a lot of motorists around who were very upset at what was happening....people were very upset, they were running around the place not really sure what to do”.

She said that while at the start it had been “very chaotic”, the scene became “very professional” as more gardaí began to arrive from other stations.

She said that, after a more uniformed gardaí arrived, she was “told to go away”.

Ms Cox said civilians were brought from the scene to two local hotels, where she conducted “several interviews”.

She said she recalled gardaí conducting searches along the road around the Cullenmore bends in the following days and a “big Garda presence there for a few days after”.

The commission of investigation continues.