Stun grenades and helicopter used to trap thieves

By Sean O’Riordan - Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The hunters became the hunted as scenes akin to a Hollywood cops and robbers blockbuster unfolded in a quiet, middle-class rural community.

Many people living in tranquil village of Glounthaune, 9km east of Cork City, were savouring a repeat showing of Cork’s hurling triumph on The Sunday Game when the rotor blades of a helicopter suddenly swished overhead, torches lit up fields and armed gardaí flooded the area.

The surreal scenes soon stunned many locals, who began to get "very spooked" when detectives told them to lock their doors, close their windows and not to come out of their homes as armed criminals were on the loose.

Brothers Paddy, 36, and Kevin O’Shea, 32, are close neighbours of the Glavin family, the intended targets of a robbery foiled by gardaí.

Kevin, a talented Erin’s Own hurler in his day, was downstairs watching the Rebels’ finest performance in years, while Paddy was upstairs.

"I had the window open and heard some loud bangs which I thought were gunshots," said Paddy. "I heard a man saying he was being shot [at] and saying ‘the gardaí, the gardaí.’ I locked the back door thinking somebody was on the loose. In the meantime, Kevin rang the gardaí in Glanmire. Before he even got off the phone the [garda] helicopter was overhead."

It later transpired that the ‘shots’ the brothers heard had come from stun grenades used by the gardaí to corner one of the fleeing — and presumed to be armed — raiders.

"I thought it was firecrackers at first," Kevin said. "My mother, Margaret, was a bit freaked out. We were concerned there could be someone [dangerous] out there. There was a five-minute window of anxiety."

Both men described how the helicopter hovered around the area for several hours, at least until 2.30am yesterday, and how they saw teams of gardaí equipped with spotlights scouring the nearby fields for the fleeing gang members.

A short distance up the road, the Hayes family, who live even closer to the Glavin house, were shocked to see a man they didn’t recognise in their garden.

Gemma Hayes, 23, described how she started screaming at her father, Tom, that there was somebody on the property.

To their shock, the family discovered seconds later that the unknown man was an armed garda.

"He came up to us and said: ‘Lock the doors, there’s an armed suspect around.’ We shouted to other neighbours about that. The gardaí were up and down the whole time with torches," Gemma said.

"We were petrified. It was only at about 3.30am that we finally got to sleep."

Gemma said that in recent days they had heard a helicopter flying around the area.

It was not clear last night if it was the same Garda helicopter deployed during the operation.

However, what has become apparent is that gardaí were became aware of the gang’s intention to rob businessman Pat Glavin some weeks ago and they had been keeping a close eye on their movements, and at all times their priority was to ensure the Glavins were safe.

Gardaí were remaining tight-lipped about whether they had received a tip-off or had come across the information through their own surveillance techniques.

Both Gemma, who lives around 300m from the Glavin home, and Paddy O’Shea described Mr Glavin, an outdoor caterer, as "a hardworking and popular man".

Gardaí are expected to rigorously question the five gang members they arrested for a number of days before either charging them, sending a file to the DPP or releasing them without charge.

Privately, senior Garda sources indicated that they are very pleased with the operation, especially as they have apprehended one of the most serious criminals in Cork and his gang members without anybody being injured or robbed.