IRA kidnap gang 'captured' seven gardai and soldiers
Published 14/06/2008 | 00:00
The terrorist gang who kidnapped businessman Don Tidey also captured seven gardai and soldiers during the chaotic shootout when their hideout was discovered.
While the businessman was able to make his escape in Derrada Wood in Co Leitrim in 1983, the IRA gang forced members of the security forces to surrender, telling them: "This is no time for dead heroes", the Special Criminal Court was told.
Maze prison escapee Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane, a 56-year-old father of three from Jamaica Street in Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Mr Tidey on dates unknown between November 24 and December 16, 1983.
He also denied possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life at Derrada Wood, Drumcroman, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim between November 25 and December 16, 1983, and possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose.
Yesterday William O'Brien, a retired Army corporal, recalled how he cocked his rifle after he heard gunfire and explosions. He saw another corporal coming out of the wood with his hands over his head followed by two gunmen armed with an Armalite rifle and a submachine gun.
He pointed his rifle at the gunmen but one of them said: "This is no time for dead heroes'', and told him to drop his weapon.
The gunmen had captured three soldiers, three recruit gardai and a garda. He ordered the captives to run in front of them, while one of the gunmen fired shots into an Army radio.
Detective Garda Francis Moran, then a trainee garda, said he heard intense bursts of automatic gunfire and one or two loud bangs and he dropped to the ground.
He saw eight or nine people coming out of the wood, three of them bearded and in combat gear and armed with rifles and submachine guns.
A man pointed a rifle in their direction and told him and two soldiers and another garda to get up and said: "Dead heroes, no good."
The gardai and soldiers were ordered to run with their hands up through fields, ahead of the gunmen. At one stage one fired a number of shots in the direction of an armed detective.
Retired Detective Inspector Bill Somers recalled that on Friday December 16, 1983 his armed search party, codenamed 'Rudolph One', arrived at the wood. The officer told the court he heard heavy gunfire coming from a small wooded area and saw another search party lying on the side of a hill.
They had "flushed out the terrorists" and were coming under fire.
He radioed for help and then saw someone coming through a ditch in combat gear and thought it was one of the terrorists making a break but it turned out to be Mr Tidey.
The garda officer calmed Mr Tidey when he saw a blue car driving towards them and the driver opened fire. There was also gunfire from the car boot.
Det Insp Somers pulled Mr Tidey to the ground but Detective Garda Donal Kelleher was shot in the legs.
The car sped off around a corner but came up against a garda checkpoint and further gunfire was exchanged.
Det Insp Somers said he put a bullet proof vest on Mr Tidey and got him into a car which drove him to safety.
The garda detective later found a hole in the elbow of his jacket, a tear on the inside of the left sleeve of his sports coat and another tear which he said were caused by the gunfire and he also discovered that his watch had been broken.
Another Garda Inspector said a prayer in the ear of the trainee gardwh died in the shooting.
Inspector Seamus O'Hanlon said after he heard gunfire he heard somebody shouting: "Garda dead over here.''
Almost immediately another voice shouted: "Soldier dead over here."
Insp O'Hanlon said: "I identified him as Garda Gary Sheehan. I had known him for 14 years. He had a large wound in his head and was dead. I said an Act of Contrition in his ear."
Retired Sergeant Tom Barrett told the court he came across a dome shaped black polythene tent in the woods and saw a man holding a long gun and another kneeling man also holding a gun. He alerted his superior who shouted a warning. He then heard one shot and then a burst of heavy gunfire.
Sergeant Francis Smith, who was a trainee garda in 1983, said he saw a man dressed in military clothing cleaning a rifle with a white cloth. He called out: "Soldier, answer my call'' but there was no response.
At this stage recruit Garda Gary Sheehan shouted: "Is that you Frank'' and he replied: "Yes.''
The trial continues on Tuesday.