One of the four men involved in an attempted bank robbery in Abbyleix in 2001 in which a garda was accidentally killed has been jailed for eight years by Judge Michael White at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
The planned bank raid was foiled when gardai who had been waiting at the scene, following a week-long surveillance operation, moved in to intercept the gang's three stolen vehicles.
Chief Superintendent Noel White, of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigations, told prosecuting counsel, Mr Alex Owens SC, the amount of money the gang could have got away with had the robbery gone ahead as planned would have been "in the millions".
Garreth Quinn (aged 27), of Maplewood Way, Tallaght, who absconded while on bail before his trial, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob the AIB Bank in Abbeyleix, and allowing himself to be carried in a stolen car on December 7, 2001.
Quinn handed himself over to gardaí at the end of last August, almost a year after his fellow conspirators had been sentenced to 10 years each by Portlaoise Circuit Criminal Court following a seven week trial in October and November 2002.
Judge White noted that Quinn had not tried to shift the blame on anyone else for the death of Detective Sergeant John Eiffe (aged 40) during the failed robbery, unlike his co-conspirators, Kevin Lynch (aged 34) of Glenshane Crescent, Ian Quinn (aged 22), St Aongus Road, both Tallaght; and John Bishop (aged 38), St Ronan's Drive, Clondalkin.
Judge White also noted that Quinn, with five previous convictions, had a shorter criminal record than two of his fellow conspirators and prison reports showed he was attempting to use the time in custody to reform his life for the better.
Taking all factors into account he suspended the last two years of Quinn's sentence, binding him to keep the peace for two years on release and disqualified him from driving for 10 years.
Chief Supt White told Mr Owens that gardaí had been conducting a surveillance operation of the four defendants as they planned the robbery.
In the week leading up to the incident, gardaí had followed the gang to Abbeyleix where they observed two of them climbing over the wall at the back of the bank and sawing through iron bars on a ground floor window. They had then filled the gap with putty and painted over their work.
Chief Supt White said that on the day of the robbery the gang met at Dublin Airport where they drove off in three different cars - a Porsche, a Mercedes and a BMW - all of which were later found to be stolen. One of the cars, noted Chief Supt. White, had in fact been hijacked.
They then travelled in convoy to Abbeyleix into a lane way alongside the bank towards the Most Holy Rosary Church. While they parked in a cul-de-sac car park, armed gardai moved in to intercept the vehicles.
As one of the cars tried to get away, gardai from the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and National Surveillance Unit (NSU) attached to Garda Headquarters in Phoenix Park, opened fire.
Chief Supt White said that in the ensuing gunfire, one of the bullets ricocheted off the ground and fatally wounded Det Sgt Eiffe.
Later examination of the vehicles revealed hacksaw blades, wire blades for metal cutting, gloves, balaclavas, and a tub of putty used to prepare the bars cut at the bank the previous week.