Sunday 21 December 2014

Gang escaped with just €4,000 in garda murder raid

JODY CORCORAN, JIM CUSACK, JOHN DRENNAN, MAEVE SHEEHAN, JEROME REILLY, DANIEL McCONNELL, NIAMH HORAN, PHILIP RYAN and RONALD QUINLAN

Published 27/01/2013 | 16:58

THE gang that shot and killed Garda Adrian Donohoe during a robbery fled with just €4,000, Garda sources revealed today.

Detective Garda Donohoe, a father-of-two, was blasted in the head seconds after he stepped out of his car to confront raiders at Lordship Credit Union in a rural part of Co Louth on Friday night.

The gunman opened fire without warning. The 41-year-old Garda officer did not have time to draw his police issue weapon.

This morning the crime scene at Bellurgan, Jenkinstown, close to the border with Northern Ireland, remained sealed off as Gardai continued their hunt for the four-man armed gang.

A cordon extending for several miles has been set up around the area.

The cold-blooded murder has focused attention on so-called dissident republicans who "attack our democracy" in a semi-formal alliance with those who engage in "drug and gun culture" criminality.

The Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, has promised every resource available to bring to justice those responsible for what President Michael D Higgins called this "dreadful crime".

But Mr Shatter himself is this weekend also at the centre of aroused fears related to the perceived weakening of law and order in the State.

Det Gda Donohoe, 41, husband of Garda Caroline Donohoe, a father of two children aged seven and six, from a family steeped in the honour and tradition of An Garda Siochana, was executed while on cash escort duty at the Lordship Credit Union, Belurgan, Jenkinstown, Dundalk, Co Louth, at 9.30pm on Friday.

According to the gardai, a number of armed raiders approached Det Gda Donohoe and a shot was discharged by one of the raiders which "fatally injured" the garda.

The armed raiders fled the scene in a dark-coloured saloon car travelling in the direction of Dundalk. No other person was injured, but his colleague, Detective Garda Joe Ryan, who witnessed the shocking murder, was severely traumatised.

The scene was immediately sealed off. The office of the State Pathologist was notified. The Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Khalid Jabbar, attended the scene and carried out a preliminary examination.

The body of Det Gda Donohoe was removed from the scene to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda where a full post-mortem examination took place last night.

A Garda liaison member has fully briefed the family of the slain garda.

The murder was the first killing of a garda in the line of duty since the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe by the Provisional IRA in Adare, Co Limerick, on June 7, 1996. He was the 87th garda to be killed on duty in the history of the State.

The identity of the killers is not yet known, so it is not yet clear whether they are members of a small, isolated gang of criminals, or, which is thought more likely, a larger gang of criminals, such as a so-called dissident IRA gang, claiming to act on foot of some form of political motivation.

As part of a wide-ranging investigation, which will leave no stone unturned, gardai were last night also said to be hunting down a north Dublin gang, led by a man who is on bail for a firearms offence.

Also last night, further chilling details began to emerge about the brutal murder. According to informed sources, Det Gda Donohoe and Det Gda Ryan pulled up in front of the credit union in an unmarked car at around 9.30pm to provide a routine escort for a cash transit.

It is believed the gang was lying in wait for a cash collection from the credit union, which opens late on Friday.

When the detectives pulled up, a grey Volkswagen Passat was stationary in the car park and up to four men were sitting inside, according to one garda source.

On seeing the unmarked car, some of the gang members got out of their car. Det Gda Donohoe, who had been sitting in the front passenger seat, got out to find out what was going on. His colleague stayed at the wheel.

According to sources, Det Gda Donohoe did not have a chance to fire his own weapon. He was still on the passenger side when the gang members began to shout about money. It is believed that the moment he stepped out of the car a shot was fired directly at him, the bullet shot across the roof of the unmarked car.

It is believed that Det Gda Donohoe was shot in the head and may have died instantly.

Although it not clear yet how many shots were fired, sources said that more than one shot was discharged.

One of the gang members then pointed a weapon at Det Gda Joe Ryan, before they fled without taking any money. It is thought that only between €10,000 and €15,000 was in the credit union.

In a cruel twist of fate, Det Gda Donohoe's brother, Martin Donohoe, also a garda, was on duty in Navan garda station, Co Meath, when news of his brother's death was relayed to the station through garda internal communication channels.

Garda Martin Donohoe was then left to break the news to their devastated parents, Hugh and Peggy Donohoe, from Kilnaleck, Co Cavan.

Sources said last night that the weapon used to kill Det Gda Donohoe was a shotgun. However, it is believed that at least two of the gang members were armed, possibly with both a shotgun and a hand gun.

Yesterday Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said: "I'm sure you appreciate that we need to preserve the integrity of the investigation in the details of what happened in and around the credit union itself. There has been a lot of speculation but I would prefer to keep that intact just at the moment.

"It is very early days during the investigation and it is important that we preserve as much of the evidence as we possibly can in what will be a successful conclusion to this terrible crime. Resources will not be an issue and will never be an issue when it comes to this type of an investigation."

In the Sunday Independent today, however, the former minister for justice, Michael McDowell writes: "We cannot allow the 'drug and gun culture' to destroy innocent lives. We cannot allow the so-called 'dissidents' to attack our democracy in a semi-formal alliance with those engaging in ordinary criminality."

He adds: "The least that we can do now to honour his memory is to resolve that there will be no further truck with the demented 'dissidents', no tolerance in any circumstance whatsoever for displays of paramilitarism at funerals, commemorations or the like.

"Our national flag is not a coffin drape for thugs. The spectacle of its misuse without challenge in this way simply should not be repeated. So-called 'guards of honour' consisting of men and women wearing paramilitary garb, black glasses, black berets, and black gloves are criminal in nature and must be prevented."

The leader of Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin, last night promised the Government the support of Fianna Fail at what he said was a "key moment where politics faces a major test". He added: "We must work together to stand by the gardai."

However, Mr Martin also described the murder of Det Gda Donohoe as a "tipping point" similar to that of 1996, when Det Gda McCabe was also shot dead and the Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin was murdered.

In a remark directed at Mr Shatter, Mr Martin added: "The situation could not be graver. Democracy and the rule of law need the foundation of a strong, well-resourced garda force. Instead, morale within the force is at an all-time low. The thin blue line is becoming ever thinner."

Yesterday Mr Shatter told the Sunday Independent: "It is a dark day for An Garda Siochana, it is a dark day for all of us who respect the bravery and courage of the garda force. We yet again had a brave member of the garda force losing his life doing a job to protect the community. It's a dark day for everyone."

But he was adamant that the gardai had all the resources they need: "The gardai have very, very substantial resources. They are engaged in smart policing. We are ensuring that as many members of the force as possible are engaged in these areas of crime prevention and crime detection.

"The gardai are not unnecessarily engaged in desk jobs that can be done by civilians," he said.

Mr Shatter has been accused by Fianna Fail Justice spokesman Niall Collins of "arrogance" and of "presiding over an unprecedented dismantling of our garda force".

However, Mr Shatter insisted: "We have more than 2,000 civilians employed, which is not often realised, within the garda force. Of course all of the focus of An Garda Siochana will be on bringing these people to justice. It often is not realised that we have more members in the force today than we had at the height of the Troubles.

"Unfortunately, the sad reality is that we will always have bad people. We will always have people who are intent on criminality, we will always have people intent on seeking financial gain without any respect for others and, quite clearly, last night we had people who were prepared to take the ultimate step of taking human life to secure financial gain for themselves," he said.

The political ramifications of the murder of Det Gda Donohoe were last night apparent to the Government.

On condition of anonymity, a Fine Gael minister told the Sunday Independent that there were deeply held concerns at the closure of garda stations the length and breadth of the country.

He said: "The escalating concern of rural people over their safety and the break-down of law and order may see an American-style gun culture spreading across the countryside."

He added: "Such is the concern that isolated people now feel about the crime crisis, they are openly asking where can they go to buy guns to protect themselves and their families. People are frightened. We are in real danger of creating a home-grown gun crisis."

In an indication of spiralling dissatisfaction within Fine Gael, he also said: "The party and a number of ministers are angry with Shatter. We are starting to wonder what has happened to our status as a law and order party. Now we're the party for closing down garda stations. We should be protecting garda stations, not closing them down."

He added that Mr Shatter should listen to the comments of the judiciary.

Last week a District Court judge advised homeowners to use "maximum force" against burglars after hearing the case of a publican who has been robbed three times in five months.

Sentencing two burglars to jail, Judge Geoffrey Browne said: "It's time for more force to be used on these fellows. Maximum force should be used. Sympathising with the victim, the judge added: "I would like to say he should protect himself using other resources than a hurley stick."

Investigating gardai are particularly anxious to speak to anyone who was in the Belurgan, Jenkinstown area of Dundalk between 6pm and 9.30pm on Friday night.

Gardai are also appealing for information from anyone who may have seen the dark-coloured car driving towards Dundalk or possibly onto the M1 after the murder.

In a statement last night, Cardinal Sean Brady said: "I add my voice to all who have appealed to those with information that could help the gardai in their enquiries, to come forward so that those responsible for this horrific crime may be speedily brought to justice.

"I appeal to all of society to unite in rejecting such wanton violence and criminal lack on respect for human life."

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