Saturday 18 November 2017

Heavily pregnant detective ran towards armed robbery with gun drawn, inquiry hears

Ronan Mac Lochlainn
Ronan Mac Lochlainn

Clodagh Sheehy

A heavily pregnant detective with her gun drawn running towards the scene of an armed robbery was described to the MacLochlainn Inquiry today.

The detective’s colleague said it was a scene he would “remember to my death”.

Identified only as DG06, the member of the Garda National Surveillance Unit, described the scene as “ridiculous.

“Here’s an obviously pregnant female with a firearm running into the scene of an armed robbery.  If you saw it on TV you wouldn’t believe it”, he added.

The pregnant detective was not in uniform, was wearing a blue denim dress, and did not have a garda tabbard on, he added.

DG06 was giving evidence to the Inquiry which is investigating the death of Real IRA member Ronan McLochlainn (28) from Ballymun during the robbery near Ashford, Co Wicklow on May 1st 1998.

He told the Commission of his “worst nightmare” getting out of his car and being faced by man with a gun.

The gunman, wearing a balaclava,  was sitting in a car 10-20 feet away with a sawn off shotgun. “It was the gun that attracted my attention.  It was pointing directly at me.”

DG06 said he drew his own revolver as he got out of his car and got into a firing stance.  “As soon as the gun came out of the holster I would have shouted ‘armed gardai, put your weapon down’.”

He said the man had dropped his gun “instantly” throwing it in the car.

DG06 was concerned because he could not see the weapon and “so couldn’t control it”.

With two colleagues from the Emergency Response Unit he rushed towards the car and pulled the gunman out.

The gunman was “bundled onto the road” and his hands cuffed behind his back.  “I think the balaclava was still on his head and I think someone turned it around” - blocking his vision.

DG06 said the Ashford incident was the first time he had ever come face to face with armed raiders.

He told the Inquiry that as they disarmed the gunman he heard other shots being fired to the north of him.  He had no idea who fired them.  He had stayed with the prisoner for about 10 minutes before handing him over and leaving the scene to drive back to Dublin.

Describing his shock he said he since asked himself if he was even in a fit state to drive back to Dublin.

A 28 year old man with two children had lost his life.  He himself had three children and “it rang a bell in my head.

“It was a relatively successful operation but a tragedy at the same time, he added.

Everything had happened in a split second. “I could have been the deceased or I could have been the cause of someone losing their life. Its not nice.”

Later, the Inquiry heard that a garda surveillance plane above the scene of a fatal shooting at an armed robbery could see nothing but “movement and colour”.

A detective from the National Surveillance Unit, who was on the plane, said that colours and movements could be seen but people and vehicles could not be identified.

The detective in the plane, identified as DG17, said the primary function of the plane that day was to provide communications, to boost the signal of radios being used by gardai on the ground.

He explained that at the time parts of the country were very poorly served by communications masts and the plane carried a “repeater” which boosted the signal.

The Inquiry heard that this plane was above the scene of the attempted robbery of the Securicor Van that day but difficult terrain, heavy foliage, the altitude of the aircraft and the fact that the light was fading late in the afternoon meant that it was difficult to see the scene.

“Seventeen years ago technology on the plane was less than perfect,” he added.

The plane was in the air over Wicklow from after 3pm that day until about 6.40pm and when they had returned to base this officer had handed a video over to his supervisor.

When the video was viewed “I didn’t see anything that was useful” he explained.

He dismissed a suggestion by one of the raiders that the garda plane had directed armed gardai towards him where he was hiding in a field.

“I never saw a man in a field. I was lucky to see a field, never mind a man in the field”, said DG17.

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