Exploding petrol drum thrown at gardaí in chase

A Garda car was rammed three times and officers had to avoid a petrol drum that exploded after being thrown onto the road during a high-speed chase through the midlands.

Two speeding raiders threw the five-gallon drum of petrol directly into the path of the patrol car. The drum exploded and only the quick reactions of the driver prevented a tragic crash, a court heard yesterday.

Gardaí from Longford, Carrick-on-Shannon, and Mullingar, were all involved in the high-speed pursuit of Thomas McCarthy, aged 27, and his brother, John, aged 21, following a string of robberies.

Longford Circuit Criminal Court heard that gardaí were first alerted on the afternoon of December 7, 2013, after a silver Nissan Primera filled up with petrol at the Texaco filling station in Ballinalack, Co Longford.

A five-gallon drum was also filled with petrol before the car sped off without paying the €102 bill.

A short time afterwards, two cars were broken into outside a community centre at Aughnacliffe. A window of each car was smashed to gain entry and two handbags, valued at €95 and €107, were taken.

At 5.45pm, Farrell’s shop at Ballinalee, Co Longford, was robbed of its till and €50 in cash by a man who made his getaway in a silver Nissan Primera.

Garda Brendan Burke told the court that he set off in response to reports of the thefts.

He caught up with the Primera and indicated for it to stop but it sped off.

The chase began outside Granard and continued at high speed through Drumlish, Dromod, Roosky, Longford and on to Mullingar.

During the pursuit, the five-gallon drum was thrown in front of Garda Burke’s patrol car and exploded on impact with the road.

Garda Burke said that, on three occasions when he caught up with the Primera, his car was rammed and the raiders’ car took off again.

Eventually, a device was deployed by gardaí outside Mullingar to halt the raiders, but they fled on foot and were eventually captured.

The McCarthy brothers, from Spencer’s Bridge, Rathangan, Co Kildare, were subsequently charged with a range of offences arising from the crime spree.

The court was told yesterday that John McCarthy had previously been jailed for his part and Thomas McCarthy had now pleaded guilty to a number of charges arising from the events of December 7, 2013.

Judge Keenan Johnson said the events were like scenes from the movie Smokey and the Bandit, but what had transpired showed “absolute disregard for the safety of the gardaí and the public”.

Thomas McCarthy was sentenced to five years in prison, with the final year suspended, and he was given a 15-year driving ban.

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