AN INTERNAL garda inquiry was ordered last night into the bizarre theft of a patrol car by a man under arrest for suspected drug driving.
The suspect remains missing despite a cross-border search with the help of the PSNI. But officers are aware of the man's identity and are confident they will locate him shortly.
The suspect's car was stopped by a garda patrol after several motorists reported that a Lexus was being driven erratically on the northbound lane of the M1 motorway.
Gardai intercepted the Lexus at the Round Tower filling station at the Lusk exit off the M1 in north County Dublin between 7.30 and 8 on Sunday night.
The driver was taken out of the Lexus and given an alcolyser breath test, which he passed. He was then arrested on suspicion of drug driving and put on his own in the back of the official Ford Focus car.
Meanwhile, the two officers carried out a search of the Lexus.
However, the 31-year-old suspect jumped into the front seat and sped off in the patrol vehicle while the startled gardai looked on.
All patrols in the area were alerted and the registration details of the Focus were circulated to units operating in north Dublin and Co Louth. The PSNI was also put on alert.
But the squad car was driven at high speed along the motorway, crashing through a toll plaza barrier at Drogheda where a number of units had hoped to intervene and capture the runaway suspect.
The stolen squad car was spotted crossing the Border at 8.40pm and then headed off the motorway and was driven in the direction of Newry.
The suspect abandoned the car in a housing estate in the Hilltown area, a couple of miles outside the town centre. He then made his escape on foot after a 100km flight from justice.
Last night, gardai were liaising with the PSNI in their search for the missing driver, who is understood to be from the northside of the capital.
Officers have already called to his home and also visited a number of haunts, which he regularly frequents.
A full report on the incident was ordered by the senior management of the force yesterday morning.
It was later sent to Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park in Dublin.
After studying the report, a garda superintendent from the north city was appointed last night to carry out an official investigation into all of the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Meanwhile, the Lexus was seized and taken away for a detailed forensic examination.