Saturday 21 January 2017

Ex-detective objects to computer reconstruction of shooting scene

Clodagh Sheehy

Published 23/09/2015 | 02:30

The scene of the attempted armed robbery at the Cullenmore Bends, near Ashford, Co Wicklow
The scene of the attempted armed robbery at the Cullenmore Bends, near Ashford, Co Wicklow

A former member of the Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU) objected to a computer-generated reconstruction of the scene of a fatal shooting being shown at the MacLochlainn Commission.

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Retired Detective Inspector Patrick Hogan objected that he was "being judged" by being asked questions about the video.

"I feel I am being judged, of course I am being judged," he told Hugh Hartnett, senior counsel for the family of Ronan MacLochlainn.

Mr MacLochlainn was shot dead by gardaí at the scene of the botched robbery near Ashford, Co Wicklow, 17 years ago.

Mr Hogan was concerned that the reconstruction, which was put together by the MacLochlainn family's legal team, was sterile and did not represent the scene he had entered into with armed raiders on May 1, 1998.

Commissioner Mary Rose Gearty SC agreed to an adjournment to allow all the parties to discuss the use of the reconstruction. She said that she was concerned that while photographs and maps already shown to the hearing had been useful, the reconstruction might add a huge amount of time to the proceedings.

"I don't want to add a layer of confusion,"she added. "We all better think about how useful this is."

Mr Hogan described the reconstruction as "very sterile".

He said the numbers on the vans in the reconstruction meant nothing to him.

"I am at a complete disadvantage," he said.

Mr MacLochlainn, a member of the Real IRA, died from a single gunshot wound at the scene at an area known as the Cullenmore Bends near Ashford in Co Wicklow.

Mr Hartnett told the Commission that the reason for the existence of the reconstruction was "so much material has gone missing" in the intervening years "including aerial photographs".

He agreed, however, not to use the reconstruction at this point in the inquiry but might return to it later."

Earlier Mr Hogan had told the hearing about the chaotic scene of the fatal shooting with people screaming, shots being fired and cars turning right and left to get away from the place.

Responding to questions about why the scene had not been immediately preserved by gardaí, Mr Hogan explained that at the time of the fatal shooting the scene was "pretty fraught".

"First aid was being given," he said. "People were emotional. There was a lot of blood."

Mr MacLochlainn died at the scene from a single shot to the chest.

Just before the shooting, Mr Hogan saw a man with a balaclava running up to the driver of a green Mazda car and putting a gun to his head. The gunman took the driver out of the car and a female got out of the passenger side.

Mr Hogan said he was running towards the car and shouted 'Armed garda, stop'. At that point the gunman pointed the gun at him and he (Mr Hogan) fired three shots.

Mr Hogan continued to run after the car and reached it with a colleague. There was a scuffle as they took the man out of the car and a shot went off.

Mr Hogan was questioned as to why vehicles from the Emergency Response Unit had been used to transport prisoners from the scene instead of being kept there and the scene preserved.

He said he would be "surprised if they were not used". There were 30 people at the scene who were not gardaí.

Six people were arrested but at the time they had "no idea how many people that terrorist organisation had at the scene on that day".

As far as he was concerned, it was a live scene and his priority was the safety of the public, and the transport of prisoners.

ERU vehicles had been used to transport these prisoners but he could not recollect which cars were used.

"I don't mean to be flippant. At this point in time, I was searching for prisoners, the scene was live," said Mr Hogan.

He said the operation had prevented the Real IRA from gathering £300,000 that day from the security van.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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