A raider smashed through the glass hatch at a post office counter with a sledgehammer as terrified staff huddled for cover in a corner, an inquest heard today.
Dublin City Coroner’s Court heard cash had been delivered to the post office in The Village Store, Lusk, north Co Dublin, just minutes before three men tried to carry out the robbery.
Colm Griffin, 33, of Canon Lillis Avenue, and Eric Hopkins, 24, of Lower Rutland Street, both Dublin, were shot dead by elite members of the emergency response unit as they tried to steal €48,500 on the morning of May 26, 2005.
A third man, Gavin Farrelly, of Lower Sheriff Street, Dublin, is serving a 10-year sentence after surrendering at the scene.
Postmistress Linda Neary told Dublin City Coroner’s Court she had no prior warning of the raid, despite gardai lying in wait for the robbers after a tip off.
She said three postmen were in a rear sorting office and she was in the main office with two auditors from head office when there was a knock at the glass partition.
Ms Neary said she looked through the vertical blinds and saw two gardaí who asked to be let in.
As one stood in the hallway, telling her a raid was in progress, she saw a raider in a black balaclava run from the deli area with a huge sledgehammer.
“I was in fear of my life,” she said. “I was terrified.”
Ms Neary said the garda managed to close the door and she ran in to her office, where she huddled down in the corner with the auditors.
“The sledgehammer was coming through,” she said.
“He was forcing the hatch with the sledgehammer, it was pounding on the window at the hatch.”
The postmistress said one of the raiders shouted “open up, give us your money” while officers roared “armed garda, armed garda, put down your weapons”.
It was after that she heard the gun shots she said.
“All of a sudden it was quiet,” she added.
All three said witnesses said they heard gardai warn the raiders to put down their weapons before the shots were fired.
The post mistress said she then saw a man injured on the ground in front of the post office with oxygen from a cylinder.
“He said he couldn’t breathe and was given oxygen,” she said.
Pictures of the buckled window frame and smashed glass were shown to the jury.
The inquest heard extreme violence and force would have been needed to smash the re-enforced glass partition.
Tim Murphy, an auditor for An Post for the last 30 years, said he thought his days were numbered while he lay on the floor with the postmistress.
“I hope they don’t get into the office,” Mr Murphy said he thought to himself. “I was in fear of my life.”