Sunday 20 January 2019

Garda's family in tears as teen cleared of killing

THE FAMILY of tragic garda Robbie McCallion were inconsolable after a 19-year-old was acquitted of his killing.

Jamie McGrenaghan, of Gortnatraw, Kerrykeel, Co Donegal, had denied the manslaughter of Garda Robbie McCallion in Letterkenny on March 26, 2009, but had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing his death.

Garda McCallion was struck by a car while investigating the report of a car theft.

McGrenaghan was cleared of manslaughter yesterday -- but was remanded in custody for sentencing after pleading guilty to a number of burglaries.

At Letterkenny Circuit Court yesterday afternoon, it took a jury of eight men and four women just two-and-a-half hours to return a unanimous verdict of not guilty on the manslaughter charge.


Garda McCallion's grieving parents, Bob and Nancy, sisters, Deirdre and Noreen, and brother John, who travelled daily from Mayo to attend the three-day trial, broke down in tears when the verdict was announced.

Garda McCallion's girlfriend, Maria O'Donnell, was also inconsolable.

In an earlier trial, last October, a jury failed to reach a verdict on the manslaughter charge and the State was granted a retrial. On that occasion, the jury found McGrenaghan guilty of endangering the lives of two other gardai, Garda Joanne Doherty and Garda Shane Lavelle, on the night that Garda McCallion was fatally injured.

The youth, who also pleaded guilty yesterday to a string of burglary offences committed a month earlier, has been remanded in continuing custody and will be sentenced by Judge John O'Hagan next Friday.

On the night in question, Garda McCallion (29) and his two colleagues, Garda Doherty and Garda Lavelle, had responded to a report of a suspected car theft in the Tara Court area of Letterkenny.

When they arrived in the quiet cul de sac in the patrol car, they were met with two youths, one who was attaching a tow rope to the front of a car and the other, McGrenaghan, in a second car behind with the engine running.

The gardai blocked the exit from the estate with the patrol car as McGrenaghan reversed his car at high speed, paused, spun the wheels and drove at speed towards the garda car.

The three gardai ran for their lives but Garda McCallion was struck by McGrenaghan's car with such force that he was flung into the air and ended up in the garden of a nearby house.

He died of his injuries in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, less than two weeks later.

The State's case was that McGrenaghan had used his car as a form of missile on the night and driven directly at the gardai, only swerving at the last minute.

But the defence argued that McGrenaghan had been attempting to escape the gardai and exit the estate in the space between the stolen car and the garden walls when he lost control of his car and struck Garda McCallion.


Denis Vaughan-Buckley told the jury that his client who was only 17 at the time, had been under the influence of the other youth, Cathal Dunleavy (21), whom he described as an "absolute villain" with a litany of previous convictions.

He said McGrenaghan had previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Garda McCallion, an offence, which required a high degree of negligence.

He also pointed to the unusualness of a person being charged with both manslaughter and dangerous driving causing death, and questioned whether the manslaughter charge had only been brought because the victim was a member of An Garda Siochana.


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