Wednesday 16 October 2019

Man 'bowls' live grenade out of his driveway

It could have gone off at any second

The pin had been removed from the live grenade, meaning it had been intended for it to go off after being thrown onto the property. Photo:Training grenade
The pin had been removed from the live grenade, meaning it had been intended for it to go off after being thrown onto the property. Photo:Training grenade

Bill Browne

Gardai have launched an investigation after a live hand grenade was found in the garden of a house at Ballindangan near Mitchelstown last Saturday.

It is believed the device had been in the garden of the house for more than a week, after Gardaí and the army bomb squad attended what had been thought to be a hoax call in the area some eight days earlier. 

It is understood that whoever had thrown the device realised they had thrown it into the wrong garden and alerted the emergency services.

However, through no fault of their own, Gardaí and army bomb disposal experts were tasked to the wrong house - a few hundred metres up the road - and after an extensive search of that property could find no trace of a device and declared a hoax.

Last Saturday, as he was loading his 18-month-old nephew's back seat into the back seat of a car in the garden of his home, Brian Martin spied something on the ground that he at first thought was one of the toddlers toys. 

Speaking to Mick Mulcahy on last Monday's Neil Prendeville show on Cork's Red FM, Brian explained that the house had been empty for a week as both he and his parents had been away on holiday. 

"I put my hand down to pick it up and to my horror and shock realised it was a lot heavier than a toy," said Brian. 

He said that from his knowledge of having been in the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF) he realised it was a hand grenade and that its firing pin, which was later found outside the front gate of the house, had been removed. However, the spring on the device had not been activated,  explaining why it had not gone off. 

"The first thing that came into my head was to get rid of it as soon as possible, so I picked it up and threw it away from the house down the far end of the garden so that if it had have gone off no one would have been injured," said Brian. 

He said the whole experience had been "surreal" and that even as he was talking to Gardaí on the phone Brian was saying to himself "there was no way this could have been possible".

"I'm explaining this to the Garda on the phone and expecting them to come out and tell me that I'm off my head and that I have not just thrown a live hand grenade across my garden," said Brian. 

It was not until the army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team called out and completed their investigations that Brian found out for sure that it was a viable device. He admitted the incident had left him shaken and he found it hard to get to sleep that night. 

"I have been thinking about it ever since. I had to give a statement and reading it back I could not believe what was after happening. It's just frightening, to say the least," said Brian. 

Asked if he considered his actions were brave, Brian replied that many might think what he did was stupid but that most people would have reacted in the same way, not really believing there was a live hand grenade in their own front garden. 

"For a few hours I was still under the illusion that the EOD would turn around and tell me that it was a hoax. Then I got that call to tell me I was haunted, to go do the lottery because it was a viable device," he said. 

"It was then that the reality sunk in. It is still kind of surreal. I've been playing out different scenarios in my head comparing what happened to what could have happened. The intent was there. The thought that someone pulled the pin out of a grenade and threw it at a house is frightening to say the least."  

A Garda spokesman confirmed they received a report of a possible suspect device outside a "specific" address in Ballindangan at around 5pm on Friday, February 15. He said that after an extensive search by the Gardaí and the army no devices were found. 

The spokesman said that at around 10.30pm last Friday they received a call reporting the discovery of a suspect device in the front garden of their home approximately 500 metres away from the previously reported incident. 

The house was evacuated pending the arrival of the army EOD team who confirmed the device was viable and carried out a controlled explosion. 

"The occupiers of the house and the man who picked it up were very lucky as the device could have exploded at any time.  No arrests have been made and our investigation is ongoing," said the spokesman who confirmed Gardaí were looking at CCTV footage shot in the area over recent days.  

"We are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed any suspicious activity in the Ballindangan area between February 15 -23 to contact us," he added.