MacLochlainn Inquiry: Heavily pregnant detective described dropping ice-cream and shouting into radio 'Securicor Van going through Ashford, no garda escort'
A heavily pregnant detective described dropping her choc-ice and shouting into her radio that a Securicor Van was about to become the target of an armed gang.
The detective has also told how within a short time later she found herself running into the scene of the botched raid and how to this day “it has an awful effect on me every time I think about it”.
After the raid she went to the doctor “trying to make sure my baby’s heart was still beating”. She was six months pregnant at the time.
The member of the National Surveillance Unit, identified as DG11, was giving evidence to the MacLochlainn Inquiry which is investigating the shooting dead of Real IRA member Ronan Maclochainn by gardai at the scene of a robbery north of Ashford, Co Wicklow on May 1st 1998.
The detective had gone to Ashford on the day and was instructed by a superior to go through the village to the southern end.
“It was quite calm. There was nothing to say what was happening. We were really in the dark. I didn’t get any sense of urgency, didn’t get any sense of danger”, she explained.
The detective said it was such a warm day she got an ice-cream. “I didn’t have time to eat it. I remember throwing it out the window because the next thing the Securicor Van went by.
“I just said Jesus could it be? There’s no garda escort. I got on the radio. I was shouting and shouting ‘Securicor Van going through Ashford, no garda escort’”.
She explained that she got into the traffic and was two or three cars behind the Van.
Other gardai who picked up the radio message joined her and the drove until the traffic blocked them from going further.
As she ran towards the scene “the Security Van was stopped. There was a van blocking it and a man standing there on the left had what I now know was a rocket launcher. There was another man with a handgun.
“I think I might have frozen”, she said.
She remembered people running and trying to get civilians away from the area, away to safety.
DG11 said she was called up to the scene to take away the elderly couple whose care had been hijacked at gunpoint by Ronan MacLochlainn.
“The lady was very agitated and upset. She asked me to get something from her car. As I approached there was a body on the ground very near the car.”
She recalled getting into the car, reaching for the purse and seeing a gun to her left. “I didn’t touch it”.
She was aware of the man on the ground and saw her colleague DG32 “whispering a prayer into his ear”
The detective said there was a lot of shouting in the field nearby. “I remember telling the couple to get down on the ground and the woman saying ‘its ok for you, you’re trained for this’.
“God, little did she know that I was not trained for what happened that day.”
She remembered her colleague DG35 “was in an awful way but I couldn’t go to her, I was trying to hold myself together”.
The detective said she would not have placed herself or her unborn baby in such a position if she had known what was happened.
She did not believe, either, her authorities would have put her near the scene in Ashford if they had known. “I don’t think I would have left home”, she stressed.
Another member of the NSU, told how the detective who fired the fatal shot at Ronan MacLochlainn had joined him minutes after the shooting at a scene where one of the raiders was trying to escape.
DG03 said he was keeping raider Pascal Burke under surveillance at the time. Mr Burke had a white van up a laneway away from the robbery scene and it was assumed this was to be used as a getaway vehicle.
DG03 said he was out of his car on foot watching Mr Burke in his van when DS06 - the detective who fired the shot which killed Ronan MacLochlainn - arrived at the scene.
DG03 described how DS06 parked his car across the van and Mr Burke got out and ran up the field.
DSO6 ran after him called “armed gardai halt” and Mr Burke stopped.
They brought him back to the van where he was arrested.
DS06 was killed two years later when he was hit by a garda ricochet bullet at the scene of another robbery.