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Garda shot at close range never had a chance, court hears

- Shotgun gang was 'slick and organised'

- Raiders 'missed €27k in third car'

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Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, who was shot dead in January 2013

Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, who was shot dead in January 2013

Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, who was shot dead in January 2013

The murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was carried out in less than a minute in a "highly organised" operation by a group of people motivated by money, the Central Criminal Court heard yesterday.

The detective was shot dead seven years ago in Co Louth while on an armed garda cash escort.

Aaron Brady (28) is charged with the murder of Det Gda Donohoe, who was then a member of An Garda Siochana acting in the course of his duty, at the Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgan, Co Louth, on January 25, 2013.

Mr Brady is also charged with the robbery of about €7,000 in cash and assorted cheques from Mr Pat Bellew at the same location on the same date.

The accused, of New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Yesterday, prosecution counsel Brendan Grehan SC outlined the State's case in his opening remarks to the court.

Slick

He said the robbery was a "very slick operation, highly organised" with quite a number of people working together as a team.

"It was carried out, the prosecution say, for a base criminal motive. This was done for money and nothing else," Mr Grehan said, adding that from the investigation there was nothing to suggest a connection "whatsoever with any kind of cause".

On the evening of Friday, January 25, 2013, gardai were escorting credit union takings from four branches on the Cooley Peninsula - Omeath, Carlingford, Cooley and Lordship.

At the beginning of the escort, staff were being followed by two uniformed gardai from Omeath Garda Station because detective gardai from Dundalk were delayed.

One of those uniformed officers, Mr Grehan said, was the late Garda Tony Golden, who was shot dead two years later in an entirely unrelated incident.

Det Gda Donohoe and his colleague Det Gda Joe Ryan took over the escort and arrived at the Lordship Credit Union at 9.25pm to escort a worker from a separate credit union and Pat Bellew, a worker at the Lordship branch.

The cars were leaving the car park at 9.29pm when another vehicle blocked the exit.

Four young males wearing balaclavas hopped over a back wall of the credit union's car park, two armed with guns, the court heard.

One of the men was armed with a shotgun and the other with a handgun, counsel said.

"Both men went directly and with deliberation and without hesitation to the garda car," he added.

The jury was told that Det Gda Donohoe, who had stepped out to see what was blocking the exit, "was blasted in the face with the shotgun, it was fired at close range no more than the width of a car. He died instantly.

"He never, it would appear, had the opportunity to draw his weapon, it was still in his holster," Mr Grehan said.

Det Gda Joe Ryan was pinned in the driver's seat of the car with two guns pointing in his face, before being threatened with "words to the effect, 'I'll f**king kill you, don't move, I'll shoot'," the court heard.

One of the raiders smashed the window of the car belonging to Mr Bellew and grabbed a bag, and a handbag was stolen from the car of another branch worker, counsel said. However, the raiders did not target another vehicle belonging to a credit union employee which contained €27,000 in cash.

The court heard the four men then fled in a stolen Volkswagen Passat driven by a fifth raider, with Mr Grehan adding: "All that happened in 58 seconds."

He said that the accused in this case, Aaron Brady, was 21 years old, and was in the company of two friends.

A "distinctive" car driven by one of Mr Brady's friends was seen in the vicinity of Lordship Credit Union around 2pm on the afternoon of January 25, 2013, he told the court.

Mr Grehan said a "curious thing" happened on the evening of the murder, in that Mr Brady's phone, and those of his two friends, "go off the radar" between around 8pm and 10.30pm.

Pressure

It will be the prosecution's case that on the day of the robbery Mr Brady sent a text message saying he would "be busy" that evening, specifically between 8pm and 10pm.

"Aaron Brady left Ireland shortly after the robbery and murder as the investigation ramped up and he went to the US and settled in New York," Mr Grehan said, where the accused believed he was "beyond the reach of the long arm of the law".

The prosecution also says Mr Brady appeared to be "under money pressure" coming into the weekend of January 25, 2013.

However, "he was indicating that this money pressure would be solved after the weekend".

The court was told the day after the murder Mr Brady also lied to gardai about his alibi.

Earlier, Mr Grehan told the court that the accused in this case is presumed to be innocent and that he comes into the court "cloaked in the presumption of innocence".

The trial continues today.