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One year on: dedicated family man cut down in the line of duty

THIS weekend marks the first anniversary of the murder of detective Adrian Donohoe – a dedicated family man, garda and GAA player.

The dad-of-two was gunned down by a five-man gang in cold blood in a killing that shocked the nation.

The hero detective was shot dead at approximately 9.30pm on Friday, January 25, 2013, targeted by cross-border criminals robbing a credit union in Lordship, near Dundalk, Co Louth.

No arrests have yet been made, but gardai insist they are closing in on the gang, a number of who have fled the country.

Detective Donohoe was part of a routine escort for cash collections from four credit unions in Co Louth when he and colleague Joe Ryan arrived at the Lordship Credit Union.

But on that cold January night, an ambush lay in wait.

As their convoy was about to set off, one of the criminals blocked their exit with a getaway vehicle – a stolen VW Passat – while the others ran towards the escort.

 

SHOTGUN

 

ONE THUG SHOT GDA DONOHOE WITH A LONG-BARRELLED SHOTGUN FROM CLOSE RANGE AS HE STEPPED OUT OF HIS UNMARKED PATROL CAR TO INVESTIGATE THE BLOCKAGE.

He died instantly.

The other raiders smashed the windows of the two cars used by credit union officials. They grabbed €4,000 from the Lordship vehicle, but missed the lodgements, estimated at €30,000, from the other credit union cars.

Officer Ryan was also threatened with being shot during the raid. Neither man had a chance to raise their weapons at the gang, who sped off and dumped their car in Keady, Co Armagh, where it was found burned out by the PSNI the following day.

Gardai identified the man who fired the fatal shot and his partners in crime within days. All are from south Armagh and were involved in a cross-border crimewave.

Some of the gang members continued to use their Facebook accounts after the killing, posting pictures of themselves drinking.

The alleged gunman is also the chief suspect in a prior raid on the Lordship Credit Union in 2011, during which €62,000 was stolen.

Gardai also established that the VW Passat used in the fatal attack had been stolen in the Clogherhead area of Co Louth on the Tuesday night or the Wednesday morning before the shooting.

There were devastating scenes at Gda Donohoe's funeral on January 30, which was attended by more than 5,000 people. In a eulogy, Fr Michael Cusack said: "For God's sake, turn these people in. If not, you are allowing Satan to rule the lives of more and more people."

Meanwhile, the investigation into the killing continues, supervised by chief superintendent Pat McGee and superintendent Gerry Curley.

They also have specialist support from branches including the Special Detective Unit, the Organised Crime Unit and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, in addition to the Emergency Response Unit.

The probe is now at a stage where senior officers believe they will be able to charge the gangsters responsible before the end of February.

This week, it emerged that a member of the five-man gang has made a witness statement in Australia. And last month, two suspects who had fled to New York refused to answer questions about the murder.

The first major breakthrough in the case came in late February when a father and son were arrested and questioned about the robbery of the stolen getaway car that was used in the raid.

 

RELEASED

 

THEY WERE NOT SUSPECTED OF DIRECT INVOLVEMENT IN THE MURDER, BUT ARE THOUGHT TO HAVE SOME KNOWLEDGE OF THE CRIMINALS WHO STOLE THE NAVY-COLOURED VW PASSAT. THEY WERE LATER RELEASED WITHOUT CHARGE.

Days later, gardai disclosed information about a hammer found at the murder scene which had been used to smash car windows.

The mallet, which has a rubber head and a black and red handle, yielded a DNA profile which could identify one of the gang members.

It was also discovered that the attackers had removed a green Cosatto child seat from the vehicle when they stole it.

In April, the Herald revealed that almost 50 heavily-armed gardai raided a house and farmlands in the first search directly connected to the murder.

A number of phones and laptops were seized from the property near Hackballscross, Co Louth.

It is understood that three of the gang "got spooked" after this and fled the country.

Two brothers travelled to New York, while another of the group flew out to Australia. Two more stayed in their south Armagh stronghold.

Gardai hope to arrest all five in the next few weeks when the visas of the three who went abroad will expire.

By last summer, officers had gathered "literally years worth of CCTV" and analysed traffic on dozens of phones as the probe continued with close co-operation from the PSNI.

And in September, Commissioner Martin Callinan gave an update on on how the probe was progressing.

"The investigation is a major one and right now we have collated over 3,200 statements and reports," he said.

"I'm not going to give any indication as to how close or far away we are. But whether it will be short, medium or long-term, we will be ready to bring those people to justice."

hnews@herald.ie


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