Friday 30 September 2016

Garda kicked handcuffed prisoner in the face while on ground - witness tells MacLochlainn Inquiry

Clodagh Sheehy

Published 19/11/2015 | 17:57

Ronan Mac Lochlainn
Ronan Mac Lochlainn

A Garda kicked a handcuffed prisoner in the face as he lay face down on the ground, a witness has told the MacLochlainn Inquiry.

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Fionnuala Mulhall said she heard the Garda say to the masked man “did you think I was f***ing sick”, which she later understood to be related to the fact that it was the day of the garda “Blue Flu” industrial action.

The prisoner who had been kicked “started gurgling as if he was struggling for breath. There was blood on the road after that”.

The Inquiry is examining the circumstances surrounding the death of Real IRA member Ronan MacLochlainn who was shot dead by a Garda at the scene of an armed robbery by a six man gang north of Ashford, Co Wicklow on May 1st 1998.

Ms Mulhall also told how a plain clothes Garda at the scene had pointed a gun in the driver’s window of their car shouting “give me the f***ing keys”.

Ms Mulhall remembered telling her partner  Stephen Daly “just give him the keys”. She stressed they did not know initially that this was a Garda.

Mr Daly told the Inquiry how the couple had been on their way to Wexford when the traffic was halted near Ashford by a van pulling across the road ahead.

He said his partner has suggested they might be making a film but then people came running towards them in a panic.

The car ahead “reversed into me and blocked me.  I saw one masked man on my side of the car with something in his hand but I couldn’t really make it out.”

Mr Daly said he heard shots and the two of them ducked down in the car.  Then a man “stuck a gun in the window and said he blow my head off if I moved so I didn’t”. This man wanted the keys of the car.

“Another fella came and told him to calm down” and it was at this point Mr Daly said he realised they were gardai.

As he got out of his car “there was one chap on the ground. He had a mask on him. There was definitely two gardai with him. They had him on the ground. They pulled up his hood. He was lying face down handcuffed at the back”.

Mr Daly said he heard the Garda who “had threatened me”  say to the man on the ground “did you think I was sick” and “the fella on the ground got a kick in the face”.

He also remembered seeing a man further behind him on the ground with gardai around him. “It looked as if they were resuscitating him or something”.

A short time later a man came running past with blood on his hands.  Ms Mulhall also recalled a man walking past their car with “blood on his arms”.

She said she had told Gardai at Wicklow station when she was making her statement later that night about the man being kicked on the ground. 

The Inquiry heard this information was not included in the statement.

Michael Harkin was driving home to Waterford when his car was stopped in traffic as a blue van pulled across the road ahead.

He told Inquiry he had seen a tall man holding a pistol, “waiving the pistol at head height or above his head in his right hand”.

He did a u-turn and got away from the scene. As he turned he could see the man heading for the first car in the line stopped by the van. There was an elderly couple in this car.

Denis Purcell was also on his way home when his car was brought to a halt in traffic where the Securicor Van was being held up

He remembered someone wearing a balaclava. “He had a large weapon in his hands. It was a terrifying looking weapon”, he added.

Mr Purcell said he heard gunfire and threw himself down across the front passenger seat of his car.

He stayed like that until the noise died down. When he got up again he saw gardai with tabbards. One of these came up to him and asked him if he was alright.

Mr Purcell said he asked the Garda if he could use his phone to phone home and say he would be delayed.

Retired Sergeant Pat Tracey, who was in charge of statements in the incident room after the Ashford event, was asked about two statements which had been filed where the two members of the National Surveillance Unit named on the statements denied or did not recall making them.

In one case the detective was adamant he had not made the statement at all.   In the other case the detective involved said she did not recall making the statement.

Mr Tracey said it was often the case that several statements could be handed in at the one time. He had no recollection of any case where someone said they had not made the particular statement.

He also agreed that where there was an identification number entered in the record book and no sign of the relevant statement in the files, it was likely that the statements had been mislaid.

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