Thursday 23 May 2019

Death by misadventure


MAIN PICTURE: Ashford shooting pictures from the Arklow edition of the Wicklow People in 1998. INSET: Wicklow County Coroner Cathal Louth at the inquest into the death of Ronan McLoughlin.
MAIN PICTURE: Ashford shooting pictures from the Arklow edition of the Wicklow People in 1998. INSET: Wicklow County Coroner Cathal Louth at the inquest into the death of Ronan McLoughlin.

A CORONER has recorded a verdict of death by misadventure in the killing of a 28 year-old Dublin man shot dead by gardaí, as he attempted to flee a botched raid on a Securicor van near Ashford in 1998.

The inquest into the death of Ronan McLoughlin, 62 Sillagoue Road, Ballymun, concluded in Wicklow Coroner's Court last week and the court heard how members of the Special Detectives Unit and the National Surveillance Unit were in Wicklow on May 1, 1998.

In his deposition, Detective Sgt. Michael Shanahan (now retired) said as he was on duty in Dublin he saw one of the raiders, Pascal Burke, driving a white Transit van. He knew Burke and followed him. Burke went in the direction of Wicklow and a surveillance team, members of the Special Detective Unit and Wicklow gardaí were notified.

They became aware that Burke met with the driver of a blue Transit van in a lay-by close to the Cullenmore Hotel and gardaí put members north and south of this lay by.

Detective Sgt. Patrick Seers said he was a member of the Special Detective Unit and was in Ashford on the day with Detective Superintendent Basil Walsh, and they were aware the gang was in the area and had parked up a blue Transit van and a Toyota Carina in a lay-by close to the Cullenmore Hotel. At 5.05 p.m., they saw the Securicor van pass through the village and the decision was made to follow it.

He said they hadn't been aware of what the gang were planning. 'We didn't have a clue what they were doing (in Wicklow). We contacted Inspector Castle in Wicklow to try and ascertain the target. We figured this (the Securicor van) could be the target.'

The blue transit van blocked the road as the Securicor van arrived and the gardaí following the Securicor van came upon it being hijacked.

McLoughlin, he said, pointed a gun at Detective Sgt. John Gantley and a number of shots were fired. Two of the raiders jumped into a ditch and were apprehended by gardaí.

Detective Chief Superintendent Seán Camon told prosecuting counsel Eamonn Leahy SC that the five were members of a six-man armed gang that posed as county council workmen, before blocking the main N 11 road with a van and car and attempting to rob a Securicor van carrying more than £250,000 back to Dublin.

The gang was armed with an assault rifle, a pumpaction shotgun and revolver, and one raider, also, had an imitation rocket launcher and another had an angle grinder for cutting through metal. Detective Sgt. James Ryan said on arrival he saw a number of armed people and saw a person trying to escape in a Toyota Carina. Detective Sgt. Ryan was driving a jeep and struck the Carina to the rear spinning it 180 degrees forcing it to stop in the ditch. The driver of the car had a shotgun and when Detective Sgt. Ryan drew his weapon the driver dropped the shotgun and put his hands in the air.

He got back into the jeep and saw McLoughlin trying to escape in a green Mazda. He got ahead of the Mazda and blocked the road but the Mazda crashed into another vehicle and stopped before it reached him.

He said McLoughlin was struggling as gardaí tried to arrest him. He was handcuffed but it then became apparent he was injured so he was uncuffed.

He had a gunshot wound to the upper chest and while he responded to gardaí at first, his condition worsened and he was given mouth to mouth by one of the gardaí and CPR was also done but he never recovered. The court heard on Monday that the fatal bullet had been fired from a car travelling southbound as McLoughlin attempted to flee the scene in a stolen Mazda 323. Ballistics expert retired Garda Seamus Quinn told the Coroner's Court how he examined between 20 and 25 firearms belonging to gardaí who were involved in the raid following the incident.

He said that three of these weapons had been fired by gardaí. Two semi-automatic guns had been discharged as had a Smith and Wesson special six shot revolver. One of the semi-automatics had fired two rounds while the other discharged six shots. Two shots had been fired from the Smith and Wesson and it was the Smith and Wesson belonging to Officer A which had shot and killed McLoughlin as he attempted to escape.