Nobody living in a leafy estate on the outskirts of a town in west Waterford expected an incident involving some rowdy, bottle-throwing youths to end up in the death of one of the gang.
Yesterday, those living in the Seapark estate in Dungarvan — which is dominated by middle-class professionals and families — were in shock and trying to come to terms with what had happened to Jamie Ducey, aged 18.
He was one of a gang who had earlier thrown empty beer bottles at houses and cars in the estate, which was built in 1980 and is about 3km from the town centre.
Gardaí believe the gang of youngsters had earlier been drinking on the nearby seashore and taken a shortcut through Seapark estate on their way home when, for some inexplicable reason, they started to launch an attack on a number of houses and cars.
One of the houses hit belongs to Superintendent Michael Leacy. He was woken at around 12.05am yesterday to hear bottles smashing off his home.
He was at home with his wife and two of his four grown-up children at the time. The superintendent has owned the semi-detached house at Seapark for nearly 20 years.
By this stage, other neighbours had also been targeted and were out on the roadway following the culprits.
Supt Leacy jumped into his car and pursued some of the gang. He drove out onto the nearby Clonea Rd.
There he spotted two of the suspects. He got out of the car and informed them who he was.
Garda Superintendent Michael Leacy
It is understood he was speaking to one of the gang and was about to arrest him when another member of the gang came up behind him and hit him over the head with an empty bottle.
Supt Leacy was taken to Waterford Regional Hospital where he had to have seven staples inserted into his head wound.
By the time Garda units converged on the scene, the youths had fled.
Mr Ducey is believed to have died a few minutes later, after he jumped a metal fence and fell down an embankment into a stream after fleeing the scene.
A short time later, gardaí arrested two males close to the scene.
A Coast Guard helicopter was brought in to help with the search, and at around 3am, a third suspect was found hiding close to the Clonea strand shoreline and was also arrested.
In the interim, at around 12.30am, gardaí had discovered the body of Mr Ducey in the 2m-wide stream on waste ground between two estates at Sallybrook, which is nearly 1km away from Seapark.
Some of the same paramedics who had treated the injured superintendent later tried to help Mr Ducey, but it was too late and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Superintendent Chris Delaney, who is based in Waterford City and had come to take charge of the investigation, immediately informed the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) of the incident, which is standard procedure in such cases.
A GSOC spokeswoman said that four of its officers were immediately dispatched to Dungarvan and arrived there at around 5.30am to start their own investigation, which will run in parallel with the Garda investigation.
The area where Mr Ducey’s body was found was preserved for technical examination before his remains were removed to Waterford Regional Hospital for an autopsy.
Gardaí also carried out house-to-house inquiries in the general area yesterday afternoon.
People living in the Seapark estate said they were shocked by what had happened. The majority said it was an extremely peaceful neighbourhood, but one husband and wife, who declined to be named, said there had been recent incidents with drunken youths passing through the estate on their way back into the town centre after drinking on the strand.
“Nothing even close to this has ever happened in this estate before. We don’t believe he (Supt Leacy) was targeted as they (the gang) were randomly throwing bottles at other houses before they got to his and again later down the road,” another neighbour said.
“He’s a highly respected person. He’s well-liked and respected by the local community. He’s a man of integrity.”
Another resident in the estate claimed that he’d seen youths kicking one car and smashing another vehicle’s window with a bottle.
He added that five youths and two teenage girls were “shouting and roaring” as they targeted the homes and property.
The Mayor of Co Waterford, Cllr Damien Geoghegan, said people had been left shocked by what had happened.
“The area is generally quiet and peaceful. It’s shocking to think that the incident resulted in the loss of life,” he said.
Mayor of Dungarvan, Cllr Nicky Sheehan, added that he wished Supt Leacy a speedy recovery.
He added that his “thoughts and prayers were also with Mr Ducey’s family”.
Superintendent Michael Leacy is a native of Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and has served for nearly 30 years in the gardaí.
Most of that service has been spent in the Waterford Garda Division, primarily in the Dungarvan Garda District.
A married father of four, he served as a garda and sergeant in Dungarvan before being promoted to Detective Inspector and taking up a posting in Waterford City.
He served in that senior branch position from 2007 until 2012, at which stage he was promoted to the rank of superintendent.
He replaced Superintendent Tom O’Grady, who retired two years ago, as the man in charge of policing the Dungarvan area.
The Mayor of Dungarvan, Cllr Nicky Sheehan, said Supt Leacy is very respected in the community.
“He’s a great man for the locality. I worked with him on the local joint policing committee and he is very approachable and easy to work with,” Mr Sheehan said.
“Supt Leacy takes a great interest in the town and we appreciate that.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
More in this section