THE cold-blooded killers of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe hid behind walls before entrapping the officer and his partner, it has now emerged.
The armed gang who lay in wait deliberately murdered Det Gda Donohoe as another of their members blocked the exit from the credit union car park where the officers were trapped.
Det Gda Donohoe was blasted with a shotgun at close range after the men leapt out when he approached to investigate.
The shocking details of the killer trap can be revealed as senior garda officers say they are confident that the getaway car, found burnt out in south Armagh, will yield vital clues to the identity of the gang.
The car, a VW Passat, has now been identified as the getaway vehicle and officers will use vital details such as the chassis number to trace its history.
The Irish Independent revealed yesterday that the murdered garda was lured into a trap and deliberately ambushed. Fresh details have now emerged of the set-up, with three of the four raiders hiding behind walls of the car park at the Lordship credit union premises, outside Dundalk.
Two credit union officials had agreed to rendezvous there to bring their cash to a bank night safe in the town.
One of the officials was carrying the €4,000 in lodgements from the Lordship premises. The second official had collected between €25,000 and €30,000 from three other credit union branches in the Cooley area.
The officials, a man and a woman, got into their cars and intended to travel in convoy to the bank with the garda escort car, carrying Det Gda Donohoe and his colleague Detective Garda Joe Ryan.
But as they were setting out from the car park, one member of the gang suddenly blocked the exit with the Passat.
Det Gda Donohoe was stepping out of the patrol car to investigate why the Passat was parked there, when the trap was sprung.
The three men, who had been hiding, jumped over the walls wielding a long-barrelled shotgun, a handgun and a hammer.
The man with the shotgun ran at Det Gda Donohoe and from close distance fired a blast, hitting the father of two in the head.
He then threatened Det Gda Ryan while another raider smashed the Lordship car's window and grabbed the bag containing €4,000.
The raiders then sped away, leaving behind the money from the three other credit union premises.
Gardai have narrowed down the list of suspects to members of a crime gang that has been operating on both sides of the Border for the past couple of years, and dissident republicans, linked to the new alliance.
Det Gda Ryan was back at work yesterday despite the ordeal. He met with Justice Minister Alan Shatter behind closed doors at Dundalk garda station and discussed the murder and how the killers might be caught.
Mr Shatter said later that the gang must have known gardai would be at the credit union escorting the cash. He said the gang were intent on "murder and mayhem" and Det Gda Donohoe had been shot in circumstances where there was no hope of survival.
But pressure is mounting on the Government to call a halt to the growing list of cuts in the garda budget.
PJ Stone, the general secretary of the rank and file Garda Representative Association, asked Mr Shatter: "When does the rhetoric stop? What if this happens again next week?
"Have we become oblivious to the gangland killings – that killing is something that is accepted?"
Mr Stone voiced his extreme concern that his young members were in trepidation that they were not getting the support required to provide a first-class policing service.
He told Mr Shatter: "We see the force being dismantled."
Mr Stone said it was shocking to realise that gardai once again had to take their lives in their hands and leave their homes with no certainty they were going to return. "Unfortunately, it has happened and we do not want to see a repeat of this tragedy."
Fianna Fail will raise the public's concern about the cutbacks in a two-day Dail debate that gets under way today. However, Mr Shatter said this was not the right time to discuss cuts and closures and said he was satisfied the gardai had the resources to track down the killers.
He said he had confidence the gang would be caught, brought before the courts and justice served.
Officers are satisfied that the outcome of the forensic examination of the Passat will help point them in the right direction as they establish whether the car was stolen or purchased, and where and when it was acquired.
Tonight gardai will make a direct appeal to small-time car thieves, who might have provided the Passat for the killers, to examine their consciences and contact the investigation team, if necessary on the confidential line, 1800 666111. The plea will be made on RTE's 'CrimeCall' programme.
The funeral of Det Gda Donohoe will take place tomorrow.