herald

Sunday 19 January 2020

Tourists' hijack ordeal as garda cars rammed in cross-border pursuit chaos

- Pair spotted on CCTV before rampage

- 12 patrol cars and helicopter in dramatic hotel bus chase

Cousins Stephen and John McDonagh at Terminal Two
Cousins Stephen and John McDonagh at Terminal Two
The Carlton Hotel which owns the mini-bus. Photo: Gerry Mooney

These are the two suspects who were arrested by gardai following a cross-border chase which began when a shuttle bus carrying three tourists was allegedly hijacked at Dublin Airport.

Our exclusive image shows the duo in the Terminal 2 building just minutes before their alleged bizarre rampage began in the early hours of yesterday.

They are cousins John McDonagh (26) and Stephen McDonagh (25), who have a current address in Navan, Co Meath.

Both remained in custody at Carrickmacross Garda Station, in Co Monaghan, last night where they were being questioned about the unauthorised taking of a minibus and suspected false imprisonment of three passengers.

They were arrested after a terrifying manhunt that lasted for almost two hours in which a number of garda and PSNI cars were rammed.

The shocking incident began when the three passengers were sitting in a shuttle bus belonging to the Carlton Hotel which was parked on the roadway in front of Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport at around 1am.

Delay

The tourists had arrived on a transatlantic flight late on Tuesday night and had been due to take a connecting flight to a European destination, but missed it because of a delay.

Aer Lingus was to put them up in the Carlton Hotel near Dublin Airport and the tourists got on a minibus connected to the hotel.

The suspects are alleged to have got in the front of the bus and a Colombian woman and a couple who are understood to be English nationals were then driven away by the men who are known to gardai.

The bus was involved in a minor collision with a taxi as it left the airport before fleeing the scene.

The vehicle was then driven for over 27km from the airport to a service station in Julianstown, Co Meath, near the City North Hotel just off the M1 motorway, and the three holidaymakers were told to get out of the vehicle.

The tourists later told gardai that, although they thought the way the minibus was driven was "erratic", they were not led to believe that they were in any danger.

They were not threatened or robbed during the incident and not "dealt with aggressively in any way", according to a senior source.

One female tourist has already given gardai a detailed statement about what happened and officers are hoping to obtain more statements.

It has emerged that when the holidaymakers were let out near the City North Hotel they thought they had arrived at their designated hotel and asked to check in - only to be told they had no booking.

The trio then decided to get a taxi back to the airport and contact Aer Lingus.

After eventually being brought to the right hotel, they were able to spend the night there and flew out of Dublin yesterday.

While the tourists made their way back to the airport unharmed, gardai and the PSNI were then faced with 90 minutes of mayhem.

Rammed

The two men continued north in the bus and were located by gardai near Drogheda, in Co Louth, where a patrol car was allegedly rammed off the motorway.

The bus then continued on the M1 where it drove north of Dundalk before crossing the border into Northern Ireland.

In a statement, the PSNI confirmed that it had "received a report from our colleagues in An Garda Siochana that a stolen transit van had been tracked crossing the border".

"Officers observed the vehicle in Crossmaglen Square, and upon police entering the car park the transit van collided with the police vehicle, causing damage to the front of the car," a spokesperson added.

"The transit van then made off from the area and re-crossed the border."

No PSNI officers were injured during the incident.

The men in the minibus then diverted back to Co Monaghan where officers were waiting for them.

A major garda operation, involving the air support and armed Regional Response Unit, then swung into operation involving at least 12 patrol cars including specialist units.

It is understood the bus crashed after crossing south of the Border but the two men escaped on foot and stole a small car from a farm while the smashed bus was left blocking the roadway.

Gardai gave chase and the two suspects drove south in the car.

The stolen car was intercepted by Garda Regional Support Unit (RSU) members with assistance from Garda Air Support near Castleblayney, in Co Monaghan, a short time later.

Sources say that before the suspects were arrested the stolen car had also attempted to ram the RSU vehicle.

No one was injured in the mayhem which finally ended with the arrest of the suspects at around 2.30am on the N2 between Castleblayney and Carrickmacross.

John and Stephen McDonagh are based in Navan but also have links to Swords, Ballymun, Cavan and Ballymena.

Their arrest is not linked to a separate operation in which three members of a Co Meath- based Traveller burglary gang were arrested near Mohill, Co Leitrim, at 9.25am yesterday.

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