Ballistics expert testifies in Mc Farlane trial

A retired Garda ballistics expert told the Don Tidey kidnap trial today that he concluded that gunfire from two automatic weapons had been fired in the direction of a recruit garda and soldier who were killed when the supermarket executive was rescued almost twenty five years ago.

A retired Garda ballistics expert told the Don Tidey kidnap trial today that he concluded that gunfire from two automatic weapons had been fired in the direction of a recruit garda and soldier who were killed when the supermarket executive was rescued almost 25 years ago.

The Special Criminal Court heard that gardaí found three rifles, a Steyr submachine gun and parts of a Soviet made fragmentation grenade in the wood, but never recovered the automatic weapons fired at Private Kelly and Garda Sheehan.

Detective Sergeant Patrick Ennis, who spent more than 30 years in the Garda Ballistics Section, said that he was involved over an eight-day period in the examination of the scene at Derrada Wood where Mr Tidey was rescued in December 1983.

He examined three rifles and a submachine gun which were found in the wood and a number of spent cartridges.

He said that some of the spent cartridges came from a Heckler and Koch automatic weapon and some from an AK-47 style assault rifle, neither of which were Irish Army issue weapons.

"Neither the Heckler and Koch or the AK-47 were recovered by gardaí," he said.

Det Sgt Ennis said he came to the conclusion that the Heckler and Koch and AK-47 weapons were fired from a location between the makeshift tent used by the kidnap gang and where the bodies of Private Patrick Kelly and recruit Garda Gary Sheehan were located and in their direction.

He said that when he went to the wood on December 17, 1983, he saw a body which was identified to him as that of Private Patrick Kelly.

"He was in a sitting position with his back resting against some saplings. He was in uniform and was facing into a dense area of the wood. His beret lay on the ground beside him. I saw a rifle some distance away," he said.

Sgt Ennis said that approximately 12 feet away he saw the body of recruit garda Gary Sheehan which lay on its side with his garda cap on the ground beside him.

Sgt Ennis said that he found parts of a Soviet-made fragmentation grenade which could have caused the loud explosion heard by Mr Tidey during his rescue.

He was giving evidence on the fourth day of the trial of Maze prison escapee Brendan 'Bik' Mc Farlane. Mc Farlane (aged 56) , a father of three, of Jamaica St in Belfast was arrested outside Dundalk and charged in January 1998.

He has pleaded not guilty to falsely imprisoning Mr Donald James Tidey on dates unknown between November 24 and December 16, 1983.

He also denied possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life at Derrada Wood, Drumcroman, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim between November 25 and December 16, 1983 and possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose between the same dates.

Detective Sgt Ennis said he examined spent cartridges found in the wood and some of them came from Irish Army issue FN rifles and some came from the other weapons.

He examined a US M1 Garand rifle which was "an obsolete military firearm" which had not been discharged recently, a Remington hunting rifle which had not been discharged recently and a Winchester hunting rifle which could not be fired.

Brendan Mc Farlane was the OC (officer commanding) of the Provisional IRA prisoners at the Maze prison at the time of the hunger strike in 1981 and escaped in the mass breakout by 38 prisoners from the jail in September, 1983.

He was later arrested in Amsterdam in January, 1986, extradited to the North and released on parole from the Maze in 1997.

He was arrested by gardaí outside Dundalk in January 1998 as he travelled back to Belfast from Dublin following a trip to Copenhagen.

Supermarket executive Don Tidey was kidnapped by an IRA gang in 1983 and rescued after 23 days in captivity.

A trainee garda, Gary Sheehan (aged 20) of Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan and a member of the Defence Forces, Private Patrick Kelly (aged 35), from Moate, Co Westmeath were killed in a shoot out with the kidnap gang when Mr Tidey was rescued.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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