Saturday 21 September 2019

MacLochlainn Inquiry: Original statements from members of garda National Surveillance and Emergency Response Units not available

Ronan Mac Lochlainn
Ronan Mac Lochlainn

Clodagh Sheehy

A nail bar, cans of petrol, a hammer and road signs from the scene where a Real IRA man was shot dead by gardai, have been destroyed by Wicklow Gardai.

Original statements from members of the garda National Surveillance and Emergency Response Units are also not available.

Inspector Patrick Cody told the MacLochlainn Inquiry that “rightly or wrongly” some items taken from the scene were no longer available because the incident was 17 years ago.

The Inquiry is investigating the death Ronan MacLochlainn (28) from Ballymun who was shot dead by gardai at the scene of an attempted robbery by a six man gang at Ashford, Co Wicklow on May 1st 1998.

Inspector Cody said he had been working as part of a search team in Wexford for missing mother of one Fiona Sinnott in the days leading up to the robbery.  The previous night he had been supervising the draining of a lake in an unsuccessful bid to find her.

On May 1st he was on leave and was driving home to Wicklow when he heard about the Ashford robbery over local radio.

Wicklow station was being manned by a probationer Garda because of the Blue Flu garda action, he explained, so he decided to come in and help him.

He was then appointed Exhibits Officer for the Ashford incident. 

Inspector Cody said a large number of exhibits had been gathered at the scene and he had created an exhibits chart of these.

He was no longer attached to Wicklow station but he knew some of the items gathered has since been disposed of because of the length of time.

Retired Detective Inspector John Harrington of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation who set up the incident room after the event said he could not explain why there were no original statements from NSU and ERU member s present on the day.

He also could not explain why some of these people were not asked for statements and the typed statements of others often had no date and were not signed including the statement from the detective- DS06 -  who shot Mr MacLochlainn.

Mr Harrington confirmed to Joanne McWilliams, lawyer for the Inquiry, that there was just one team investigating the whole incident and no separate team investigating the fatal shooting.

Asked to comment on the fact that a number of garda vehicles intimately involved were moved, Mr Harrington said: “I have no comment to make on that really. l wasn’t aware of that at the time.”

Commissioner Mary Rose Gearty pointed out to Mr Harrington that at least three members of the National Surveillance Unit who were intimately involved with the shooting could tell her what they saw immediately before and after Mr MacLochlainn was shot, but were not asked for statements.

“At least one of them was in a car that collided with Mr MacLochlainn.  It seems to me that anyone investigating this would have to have those statements. These are crucial”.

She questioned whether the person in charge of the NSU had never passed on the names of the team to the investigation or did and it was decided there was no need to ask them any questions.

Commissioner Gearty said members of the NSU giving evidence to the Inquiry had told her “in many cases no statements were sought”.

Mr Harrington replied that generally there should be a statement from all the relevant people and “I can’t understand why not”.

He said if statements were unsigned or undated they would be incomplete and would have to be sent back to the person who made the statement to be rectified.

Mr Hartnett stressed that the statement from DS06 was typed, unsigned and undated and the original could not be found.

“It appears there were about 100 originals (statements) but no ERU and no NSU originals” he added.

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