New breed of armed robbers may be prepared to shoot it out

 

Aspects of the armed raid on the security van in Dalkey have led senior detectives to the disturbing conclusion that the gang responsible was prepared, if necessary, to shoot its way through any Garda checkpoints and to kill.

At a Garda review of the course of events held i in Dun Laoghaire yesterday it quickly emerged that it was only through good fortune that there were no civilian or Garda deaths.

The security company employee in the back of the Brinks-Allied security van narrowly missed death when a twin-steel girder ram burst through the back of the van, smashing open the reinforced door and missing him by inches.

The gang had clearly monitored the movements of the van over a period of weeks or months and was almost certain to know there was a security man in the back who was vulnerable to such an attack.

At the scene of the robbery, on Sorrento Road, one of the gang was also seen to fire a shot into the rear wheel of the security van to further immobilise it. The van was already sandwiched between the ramming vehicle and another van in front, and gardai felt the shot into the wheel was used in an unnecessary show of violence to intimidate the security men and any passersby.

Then, a few minutes later, when the gang's own getaway car broke down, and it hijacked a car, two further shots were fired on Coliemore Road.

One of the gang fired through the rear driver-side window of the hijacked car, apparently at the head of the driver as the bullet appeared to lodge or pass through the back of the driver-side headrest.

The driver of the car, a red Saab 900, who lives locally, received only a minor shoulder wound which may have been caused by a glass or shrapnel particle. On an initial examination of the car, gardai said he was lucky to be alive. He was badly shocked.

Of the two shots fired at Coliemore Road, one hit the Saab and the other apparently passed over the roof.

The gang had devised a tight escape route. It was almost certainly aware there was fairly constant Garda patrolling in the vicinity of the robbery.

Dalkey Garda station, which is only a few hundred yards away, is open 24 hours a day, and the Dublin East Garda Division that covers the area has a 20-member Task Force used to target crime in the area.

Dublin East, in fact, has had the highest fall in crime of any urban division, with a 23 per cent decline last year and 10 per cent the previous year.

Local gardai are alert to the possibility of robbery from the stock of large houses in the Dalkey and Killiney area and of kidnapping.

Several internationally-known figures, from racing drivers Eddie Irvine and Damon Hill to the U2 band members Bono and The Edge and film director Neil Jordan as well as wealthy business people live within a radius of a few hundred yards of the robbery. Just 200 yards further down Sorrento Road, on Sorrento Terrace, is the most expensive house in Dublin, sold last year for £5.9 million.

As it happened, two armed detectives from Dun Laoghaire were in Dalkey station when the first call about the robbery came in. According to Garda logs they were at the scene within minutes, by which stage the gang members were almost certainly aware they were under pursuit. The gang had two radio scanners to monitor Garda broadcasts.

By the time the two detectives, armed only with handguns, arrived at the scene of the robbery, the gang had abandoned the cash in the getaway car, hijacked the red Saab and doubled back into Dalkey, possibly taking a back road down past Bulloch Harbour then up to Glenageary where it had almost certainly planned to abandon its original getaway car in the grounds of St Paul's Church on Adelaide Road.

The gang had an intimate knowledge of the network of back roads around Dalkey, Killiney and Glenageary, and gardai believe it had a locally-based accomplice who helped plan the robbery.

But the overriding concern emerging in the hours after the raid was the fact that the gang had three powerful assault rifles and was quick to use these weapons.

Senior gardai were yesterday speculating that after a period of years when armed robberies were in decline and gardai were clearly more prepared to confront armed robbers, there may be a new breed of armed robber emerging prepared to shoot gardai or anybody else who gets in their way.

One senior officer pointed out that in two confrontations between gardai and armed paramilitary robbers in the past two years the robbers had come off worse. This refers to the incident in June 1997 when an Irish National Liberation Army member, John Morris (26), from Tallaght, was shot in an armed confrontation with gardai during a warehouse robbery, and the death of Ronan Mac Lochlainn (28), a "Real IRA" member from Ballymun, shot during the attempted raid on another security van in Co Wicklow on May 1st last year.

Senior gardai suspect former associates of Morris or Mac Lochlainn might have made a decision that if they are confronted they will outmatch any firepower the gardai may have.

The security van robbed in Dublin on Monday evening was a Brinks-Allied vehicle, not a Securicor one as stated in yesterday's editions.