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Saturday 20 September 2014

Gardai escape smashed car and arrest burglars who rammed them

Published 24/07/2014 | 02:30

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Gardai at the scene at Little Pallas, about two miles outside Portlaosie, Co Laois, where a car rammed a patrol car. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
Gardai at the scene at Little Pallas, about two miles outside Portlaosie, Co Laois, where a car rammed a patrol car. Photograph: James Flynn/APX

Two gardai struggled out of their smashed patrol car, which had been rammed by serial burglars, and helped to arrest four suspects.

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The burglars were speeding down a narrow lane in a high-powered BMW after carrying out a crime spree in counties Cork, Tipperary and Laois, when they confronted the gardai.

The BMW, which is British registered and almost new, is believed by gardai to have been used by members of a travelling crime gang in a large number of burglaries and robberies in the past couple of months.

Gardai were alerted after several phone calls from motorists, complaining about the erratic and dangerous driving of the BMW as it sped out of Mountrath in Co Laois yesterday afternoon.

The patrol car was being driven by a female garda from Portlaoise station, accompanied by a male colleague.

As they slowed down at a corner on the narrow road, known locally as Bog Lane, near Mountrath, the BMW was driven at them at high speed.

The garda car was rammed – but it is understood the BMW overturned in the collision. Both gardai sustained injuries in the crash. The female officer also suffered an injury to her spine when the airbags burst open.

But despite their ordeal, the brave officers clambered out of the vehicle and set off in pursuit of four suspects who were trying to escape across fields onto the Cork-Dublin motorway.

Gardai from the air support unit had already joined the search in a helicopter and helped direct other garda patrols to the area.

The female garda caught one of the suspects and held onto him until help arrived while two others were arrested nearby. The fourth suspect was detained near a road.

Meanwhile, the injured male garda, who had also been involved in the pursuit, collapsed at the motorway and was taken away by ambulance.

The two gardai and one injured suspect, alleged to have been the driver of the BMW, were all taken to Portlaoise hospital where their injuries were later described as not serious.

The four suspects are from Tallaght and Rathfarnham, in south Dublin, and Portlaoise.

Break-ins

They are believed by gardai to be members of a travelling gang, responsible for a spate of break-ins and raids in counties Cork, Tipperary, Laois and Kildare in recent weeks.

All are well known to gardai and have been targeted in the past by officers involved in Operation Fiacla, the nationwide crackdown on burglars, and in off-shoots of Fiacla.

Yesterday's drama began at around 11.45am when a burglary was carried out in Cork city.

Shortly afterwards, gardai spotted the BMW being driven at high speed at Fermoy in north Cork.

Gardai went in pursuit but the gang managed to escape.

The criminals then carried out another burglary in Tipperary before becoming involved in a "drive off" at a garage in the Mountrath area.

Officers said last night they were not involved in a lengthy pursuit before the patrol car was rammed but had been informed of the thugs' whereabouts by reports from worried motorists.

A senior officer told the Irish Independent: "We are very lucky that nobody has been killed.

"The two gardai were very fortunate they did not sustain more serious injuries and several motorists could have been struck by the BMW car along the route used by the gang as they made their way out of Munster."

The ramming incident was immediately referred to the Garda Ombudsman Commission and an investigation team was sent to the scene yesterday evening.

A commission spokeswoman said the incident had been referred for independent investigation, in accordance with section 102 of the Garda Siochana Act, 2005.

Irish Independent

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