Thursday 21 February 2019

Gang throw hatchets and sledgehammer at gardai in 250kmph chase after early-morning crime spree

A car boot filled with stolen cigarettes after gardai intercepted the car
A car boot filled with stolen cigarettes after gardai intercepted the car

Ken Foy and Conor Feehan

A SLEDGEHAMMER, bars and hatchets were thrown at gardai as they pursued a prolific robbery gang during a high-speed chase on the M50.

The 220kph chase came to an end shortly before 5am yesterday when two brothers gardai suspect to be “main participants” in the so-called New M50 Gang were arrested by armed officers outside the house of one of their associates in the Bawnogue area of Clondalkin.

Two suspects who were involved in yesterday’s early-morning crime spree are believed to be on the run, but two siblings, aged 19 and 23, were still being questioned at Wicklow Garda Station last night.

Gardai released details of the arrest operation yesterday and Independent.ie can reveal that as well as the four overnight burglaries in Co Wicklow and Co Wexford yesterday, the New M50 Gang are suspected of at least 25 similar crimes in the past 10 weeks, including three shop raids in Balbriggan last week.

The recent robberies have happened across Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Kilkenny and gardai believe that the reckless young Clondalkin gang has been using the country’s motorway system to travel at speed in high-powered vehicles to “blitz businesses in smash-and-grab robberies”.

The car that gardai seized yesterday, thought to have been used in the four robberies, was an “extremely powerful” VW Passat, which has an engine size of over four litres.

The crime spree started at around 1am when three men forced entry into a filling station in Gorey town.

“Cigarettes, along with an undisclosed sum of cash, were taken,” a garda spokesman said.

It is understood the Gorey filling station was targeted just minutes before Brownes Village Store in Redcross, Co Wicklow, was hit at 1.50am when three raiders wearing balaclavas and boiler suits ransacked the shop, with a getaway driver remaining in the car outside.

The gang had gained entry to the store by using a crowbar to break a window and then stole a hatchet that was later thrown at gardai during the high-speed car chase.

They escaped with around €600 in cash and almost €10,000 of cigarettes before continuing on the crime spree – targeting a Rathnew shop, which was burgled along with a phone shop in Wicklow town.

“Sums of cash, along with cigarettes and mobile phones, were taken during the raids,” a garda spokesman added.

After the arrests took place, investigating officers recovered a large quantity of cigarettes, phones, SIM cards and other property from the car.

Last night, a senior source estimated that the total value of the stolen goods was more than €25,000.

In one of the raids, which occurred at the XL Shop in Rathnew, Co Wicklow, shortly after 3.30am, the raiders got away with another €10,000 of cigarettes and almost €1,000 in cash.

Sources have revealed that the gang “hot-wired” an electric shutter to gain entry to the shop’s main door before “blitzing” the store in Rathnew and then driving away at high speed.

They spent less than 10 minutes in the shop.

It had only been a few hours earlier that the shocking serious of raids began with the Esso filling station robbery.

It is thought the gang were driving north back to their Dublin base when they hit two more shops and broke into the Eir mobile store in Wicklow town.

However, by the time the gang reached Kilmacanogue in north Wicklow on the N11, multiple garda units had been made aware of what had happened earlier in the morning and an attempt was made to stop the criminals’ high-powered vehicle.

It sped off and the dramatic chase continued at eye-watering speeds for a distance of well over 30km.

Amid the frenzied pursuit, the thugs in the car treated themselves to some stolen sweets while flinging some of their more dangerous loot at the chasing gardai.

Sources say that by the time the drama finally ended, 20 patrol cars and the garda helicopter were involved in the manhunt.

The operation was led by the specialist anti-burglary unit.

It ended in the Bawnogue area after gardai chased the suspects through the Adamstown and Newcastle areas of South Dublin.

Two suspects remained on the run last night.

Herald

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