Tuesday 20 March 2018

'I was trying to keep Ben calm ...I was trying to stop the blood'

The scene of the shooting of Detective Gardaí Jerry McCabe and Ben O'Sullivan, in Adare, Co Limerick, in June 1996 Photo: Liam Burke, Press 22
The scene of the shooting of Detective Gardaí Jerry McCabe and Ben O'Sullivan, in Adare, Co Limerick, in June 1996 Photo: Liam Burke, Press 22

David Raleigh

The driver of the post office van targeted by an IRA gang has recalled the scene of carnage as Det Gda Jerry McCabe lay dead inside his car and his colleague and friend Det Gda Ben O'Sullivan was critically wounded.

Just moments earlier, Willie Jackson had been joking with the two gardaí as he unloaded his van outside Adare post office on the morning of June 7, 1996.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the horrendous events of that day, Mr Jackson told how a Pajero car carrying members of the IRA gang suddenly smashed straight into their convoy.

"They started shooting immediately," Mr Jackson said.

"There was a guy on the footpath and a guy on the outside of the (garda) car. There was another towards the front of the car."

In clear detail, he described how the gang then "started shooting, and stopped, and started again".

Van driver Willie Jackson Photo: Brian Gavin
Van driver Willie Jackson Photo: Brian Gavin

"I think they were trying just to make sure they were dead.

"They came up to the truck, and I had the load unsecured at the time. They were kind of annoyed and they were shouting at one another," Mr Jackson, from Ballysimon Road, Limerick, explained.

"I jumped off the truck onto the footpath and went back towards the post office wall. I had my hands in the air at this point.

"One of the guys that was doing the shooting started shouting, 'Leave it, leave it, c'mon, we have to get out of here'

"Their escape vehicle arrived and they jumped in."

The father of three immediately ran back to try and help the two gardaí who had been protecting him just moments earlier.

"I ran down to the patrol car and I put my hand across Jerry, who I thought was already dead - actually, I thought Ben was dead as well," he said.

"I gave out a call on the police radio, and Ben must have recognised it was me, and he said: 'Use the other mic, Willie'."

Mr Jackson continued: "I came around to Ben's side and it was then he realised that Jerry was dead.

"I saw him putting his hand on Jerry's wrist, he must have checked his pulse.

"I was trying to keep Ben calm. I was trying to stop the blood.

"I thought (the blood) was coming out his shoulder - to be honest, I didn't know where it was coming out of."

An ambulance arrived and more patrol cars arrived after that.

Refusing to be intimidated by the IRA thugs responsible, Mr Jackson returned to work driving his van a week after the atrocity and a day after attending Det Gda McCabe's funeral.

"Jerry was buried the following Monday. I was back to work Tuesday.

"It was another way of putting down the intimidation."

Mr Jackson said he felt the gang who carried out the botched raid were not acting for republicanism.

"When you think about it, these guys think they're republican heroes... I think the heroes are the people who get up in the morning and go to work, to provide money and taxes and the services of the State - and that's what Jerry McCabe and Ben O'Sullivan were doing that morning protecting the money.

"I can't see how these people can take a monopoly on republicanism."

Having witnessed the cold-blooded killing, Mr Jackson said: "I saw them murder Jerry McCabe and critically wound Ben O'Sullivan, with the intention of killing him as well."

Four men admitted manslaughter and served jail sentences.

Two of the gang members are still on the run.

"Evidence is evidence but I feel badly about it," said Mr Jackson yesterday.

Irish Independent

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