Sunday 25 February 2018

Dying garda 'cried out for girlfriend and his parents'

Greg Harkin

A DYING garda cried out for his girlfriend and parents after his car was rammed by a drunk criminal, an inquest heard yesterday.

Garda Gary McLoughlin (24) died 24 hours after being injured in the crash on the main Letterkenny to Derry road in December 2009.

Drink-driver Martin McDermott (26), from Castlegrove, Raphoe, Co Donegal, was jailed for seven years last July for Garda McLoughlin's mans- laughter. McDermott had 91 previous convictions.

Gda McLoughlin's inquest at the Donegal Coroner's Court, was told how McDermott led them on a 30km chase on the N13, reaching speeds in excess of 150kmh, in the early hours of December 13, 2009. Gda McLoughlin, from Fenagh, Co Leitrim, was driving from Buncrana garda station with colleague Gda Bernard McLaug- hlin to buy food for a meal break when they were informed that McDermott was driving towards Bridgend.

Gda McLaughlin, now based in Galway, told the hearing that his colleague took the decision to travel slowly, partly on the hard shoulder, in the direction of Letterkenny.

They were told not to deploy a stinger, to blow out McDermott's tyres, because he was driving too fast and its use was deemed too dangerous. They were tasked instead with getting the registration number.

Just seconds later McDermott drove at them on the wrong side of the road, ramming the marked garda car and ripping the engine out of it.

Gda McLaughlin told the court the car was travelling at "phenomenal speed" and was "like a rocket".

"He (McDermott) did not make any avoidance manoeuvre -- it was three seconds from seeing the car until impact."

Gda McLaughlin said he thought his colleague was dead. He shouted to him several times and when his colleague awoke he began screaming in pain.

The scene, he said, was "what I'd imagined a bomb would look like".

"I held his hand and he squeezed it. He was in a lot of pain and was calling for his mum and dad Noel and Una and his girlfriend Shauna," he said.

McDermott was also thrown out of the car and was found 60 yards down the road by gardai. He was found to be twice the legal limit for alcohol. He had sworn at emergency crews who came to help them, telling them to "f*** off" on several occasions. Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said Gda McLoughlin died on December 14 from multiple internal injuries.

The jury took less than 20 minutes to return a verdict of unlawful killing. In an emotional address to the court, Supt Kevin English paid tribute to the McLoughlin family and said gardai in Buncrana and Donegal continued to suffer the loss of Gda McLoughlin.

"He wore his uniform with pride and courage. Gary made a significant contribution to policing. His death was unlawful and totally unnecessary, his spirit is very much alive within the daily lives of his colleagues in Buncrana," he said.

Coroner John Cannon said: "The facts clearly demonstrate the heroic deed exemplified by the late Gary McLoughlin killed in the line of duty.

"The loss of Gary McLoughlin, a young and gallant officer, reminds us of the ultimate sacrifice by gardai and we are reminded of the burdens and demands placed on gardai.

"We are indebted to their daily roles. We appreciate the fact that in doing their duty they put themselves in harm's way ... all so the public may live in a peaceful environment."

Irish Independent

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