Detective who shot dead a member of Real IRA was 'in fear of his life' - MacLochlainn Commission hears
A detective who shot dead a member of Real IRA was “in fear of my life”, as a man with a balaclava pointed a gun at him, the MacLochlainn Commission has been told .
The detective, identified only as DS06, shot dead 28 year old Ronan MacLochlainn during an armed robbery in Ashford, Co Wicklow and died himself two and a half years later from a ricochet bullet during another armed robbery.
A statement taken from DS06 shortly after Ronan MacLochlainn was killed was read into the evidence at the Commission of Inquiry.
DS06 described how he was on surveillance duty in the Ashford area on May 1st 1998 and became aware that an armed robbery was in progress at about 5.05pm
He said he went immediately to the scene and saw a man wearing a balaclava driving a green Mazda car.
The man had a gun pointed at Inspector John Gantley and Detective Superintendent Patrick Hogan. “I heard shots being fired.”
DSO6 said he was wearing a Garda Tabbard and had his personal issue revolver drawn.
“I was in fear for my life and the lives of the other gardai. I fired two shots at the driver as he passed me.”
He then went to the assistance of the other two gardai as they were taking the driver from the car.
DS06 said the man “was resisting violently”.
As handcuffs were being put on the man they realised he had been shot in the chest and looked for medical assistance.
DS06 said he had remained at the scene until about 6pm and then he went with DG03 to a scene further away where a White Van used by the raiders was parked.
He said he had parked his car across the Van, the driver jumped out and they chased him across fields. The detective had his official revolver draw and shouted “stop, gardai”.
They had asked the man if he was armed and he had replied “No”. When the reached him and arrested him he confirmed he was Pascal Burke of Marrowbone Lane in Dublin.
DS06 said there were no guns in the van but they found a mobile phone, a walkie-talkie and gloves. He had remained at the scene until a garda came to preserve it.
Earlier a former head of the Garda Press Office has admitted he possibly gave mistaken information to the media about the shooting dead of Real IRA man Ronan MacLochlainn by gardai.
Retired former Chief Superintendent John Farrelly said he believed he suggested in an interview on the RTE Six O’Clock news bulletin there was an “exchange of fire” between raiders and gardai which led to Mr MacLochlainn’s death.
It later emerged that the six raiders involved in a botched armed robbery near Ashford had not fired a single shot while gardai at the scene fired 12 shots.
Mr Farrelly told the MacLochlainn Inquiry that on that day he had been in make-up at RTE for the bulletin when he got a phone call from the Deputy Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy about the shooting in Ashford.
“This is where I am slightly vague” he added. His memory was that the Deputy Commissioner had told him there had been an exchange of fire at the scene. “I can’t be 100pc sure” but “I believe that’s what he would have said.”
He had to cut the conversation short because it was four minutes away from the start of the TV bulletin.
Mr Farrelly said he immediately “picked up the phone and rang Paul Reynolds” - RTE crime correspondent - and “briefly filled him in so he could put it on the 6pm news”.
He said he had not taken any notes at the time because he was sitting in a chair having make-up put on.
He remembered going on the bulletin and being asked by presenter Brian Dobson about the condition of the man in the shooting and “I didn’t say he was dead. I was asked not to by the Deputy Commissioner.”
“I may have said there was an exchange of fire. I believe I probably did. I had been told that” he added when asked about this issue by lawyer for the MacLochlainn Inquiry Dara Hayes.
The Inquiry heard that RTE did not keep tape recordings of live bulletins and there was no tape available for this bulletin.
Mr Farrelly also said he had been told the injured man had been brought to Loughlinstown Hospital and it was only when he arrived at the scene himself he realised the body was still there. He could not recall who told him this.
Mr Farrelly said he had a particular memory of the day because it was the day of the Garda Blue Flu protests and the busiest day he had ever experienced during his career in the Force.
“I had done about 64 interviews that do which was enormous” all related to Blue Flu and he was due to go on the RTE news bulletin to talk about this when he got the call from Deputy Commissioner Conroy.
The Inquiry heard that the following day a correction was issued from the Garda Press Office saying the raiders had not fired shots.
Mr Farrelly said he was not involved in that correction. The direction to issue such a statement would have come from higher than his office. He had actually gone on holidays that day.
“This mistake was bona fide and corrected at the first possible opportunity”, he stressed.