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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Charge loomed over man who shot at gardai

Barry Duggan

A LOOMING assault charge is feared to have caused a taxi driver to write a suicide note and take his own life after opening fire on two gardai who had stopped him on suspicion of drink-driving last week.

The funeral of Anthony McMahon (44) took place in Limerick yesterday after his death in horrific circumstances in the quiet village of Newport, Co Tipperary.

Two officers based in Newport -- Gda Gerry Brassil and Sgt Deborah Marsh -- are still trying to come to terms with their frightening ordeal after Mr McMahon opened fire on them with a shotgun and then with a high-powered rifle before shooting himself.

Yesterday, Mr McMahon's grieving family -- including his 14-year-old son Tony, brother Paddy and sisters Geraldine and Joan -- were consoled by friends and relations during his funeral at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.

Parish priest Fr Pat O'Sullivan said all were shocked and saddened at the nature of Anthony's death. Tony presented a camouflage jacket to the altar that his father regularly wore. Fr O'Sullivan told him that he had family and friends for support after his dad's death.

"You are surrounded by the people who love and care for you. The life and relationship you had with your dad was something very special. The things you did together was something you read about in novels -- the bonding that takes place between a son and father when they go on their hunting trips.

"It was a special time together and you would have got to know each other very well," Fr O'Sullivan said.

A suicide note was found in Mr McMahon's clothing at his home outside Rearcross, Co Tipperary. It is suspected that Mr McMahon was extremely apprehensive about an impending assault case that gardai were investigating.

Originally from the Janesboro area of Limerick city, he spent last weekend drinking in Rearcross after moving into the remote bungalow last year. A member of Ballysheedy gun club in Limerick, he was a keen hunter and fisherman and was licensed to keep four firearms.

Shortly before 7.30pm last Monday, gardai received a report of a motorist driving in an erratic fashion on the Thurles road approaching Newport.

Gda Brassil and Sgt Marsh were on patrol in the village and drove up toward the local GAA pitch as a van matching the description passed in the opposite direction. The squad car quickly turned around and they signalled Mr McMahon to stop before pulling over in front of him outside a small cottage.

Gda Brassil approached McMahon and spoke to him for a few moments before noticing the firearms alongside the driver. As he queried as to whether the guns were licenced, Mr McMahon put his hand on the loaded double-barrelled shotgun. In the meantime, Shane O'Brien saw the blue flashing lights outside his cottage and went out to investigate.

"There is a pillar just outside my wall and I went out that far. I stood there. I saw the whole thing. I could see the lady garda at the front of the car. I could hear another male voice -- I presume the male garda -- and he was saying: 'Don't go for the gun, don't go for the gun'," Mr O'Brien said.

Mr McMahon swung the shotgun directly at Gda Brassil, but the officer deflected the barrel of the gun away as the first shot was fired. His face and hands were burnt from the gunshot blast as a struggle ensued. Mr McMahon and the male officer wrestled for control of the gun while Sgt Marsh attempted to overpower him with a canister of pepper spray.

The gunman refused to give up the weapon and Gda Brassil forced the second cartridge to be discharged through the roof of the van before he took the weapon from Mr McMahon's grasp.

However, Sgt Marsh fell to the ground and from behind a pillar, Shane O'Brien watched the gunman take aim with a rifle.

"Whatever happened then, the lady guard fell down. He was trying to aim at her -- aim at the two of them. He was trying to shoot them."

Sgt Marsh ran for safety behind the pillar with Mr O'Brien as Gda Brassil raced to the front of the patrol car for cover. Five shots were fired wildly by the gunman, striking the patrol car where Gda Brassil took cover before Mr McMahon discharged a fatal sixth shot to his head.

Shane O'Brien credits the two gardai for saving each other. "They wouldn't be alive only for each other. They were brilliant in fairness," he said.

Sunday Independent

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