Gardai sued over injury to raid hostage
CLAIM: I was mistaken for a robber
A FORMER bread delivery man is suing over injuries he claims he received when gardai used a stun grenade and assaulted him while capturing two armed bank robbers.
The robbers had used Seamus O'Neill's van -- and taken him with them -- in a dramatic escape attempt.
Mr O'Neill (63), Farm Road, Annagassan, Co Louth, claimed gardai beat him and handcuffed him when they dragged him from the van believing him to be one of the robbers.
In a High Court action against the State and against the two robbers, he claims gardai used excessive force and failed to heed warnings he was a hostage rather than a criminal.
The case against the State is being heard before Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and a jury while the case against the robbers, Gareth McKeown, of Mountpleasant, Newry, and Desmond Carroll, of High Street, Bessbrook, both Co Down, has been adjourned.
Both have since served jail terms of five and nine years, respectively, for the robbery.
The court heard McKeown and Carroll were part of a three-man robbery at the Bank of Ireland in Dunleer, Co Louth, on September 1, 2000.
Their getaway car collided with a truck and while the third man, who was never caught, ran off across field, McKeown and Carroll hijacked a garda car at gunpoint. They drove towards Dromin before abandoning it and running off into fields, Eoghan Fitzsimons, for Mr O'Neill, told the court.
Shortly afterwards, Mr O'Neill was delivering bread to an elderly couple's home in Dromin when he was approached by his male customer who winked at him and at that point McKeown came out of the house carrying a gun.
He told Mr O'Neill they were taking his van -- and him with it.
The set off with Mr O'Neill before they came upon a garda checkpoint and drove through it. There followed a "dramatic and lengthy" chase in which the van collided with a number of cars to get past traffic and a roadblock which had been set up by gardai in Slane.
Just outside Slane, a garda car managed to bump the van and spin it around while another vehicle boxed it in.
Mr O'Neill said he felt relieved at this point -- but then a stun grenade was thrown into the cab and he found himself blinded from the explosion.
He said he was dragged from the van, thrown on the ground, hit repeatedly and handcuffed. There were two people on top of him and only when a detective arrived who knew him was he released.
He spent seven days in hospital and had to have shrapnel removed from his left arm which was broken, along with treatment for burns to his chest, right arm and injury to his left thigh, the court heard. He has not worked since because of the effect of the injury and stress of the incident.
The hearing continues.