Bomb detonation site was thoroughly examined

Smithwick tribunal

A garda forensic expert has told the Smithwick tribunal into allegations of Garda collusion that the site of a possible detonation area from which two IRA bombs were set off killing 18 British soldiers was examined thoroughly for evidence.

Retired detective sergeant Patrick Ennis rejected earlier claims that the scene had been “obliterated”, destroying valuable evidence.

The witness, who worked in the Garda technical bureau, visited the scene near Narrow Water, where the bombs were detonated on 27 August 1979, killing 18 soldiers a short distance away on the other side of the border. One civilian in the area was also killed.

In February, Dr Alan Hall from the Northern Ireland Forensic Laboratory told the tribunal he had visited the scene some days after the deadly attack, and saw evidence still in place. But when he returned the next day, the area had been mown with a scythe.

“I have no idea where Mr Hall saw something or how close to the scene but there was definitely no sign or eating or drinking there,” Mr Ennis said.

He said several items found at the scene during the earlier garda inspection, including an empty orange bottle, had been sent to the Garda forensic laboratory for analysis.

Mr Ennis said he was not surprised to hear the scene had been cleared with a scythe, as this was “policy and procedure” to ensure nothing had been missed in the area or nearby if it was hidden in undergrowth.

And he said any evidence at the scene ha been removed before it was visited by Dr Hall and a team of RUC officers.

“They were definitely not there when I examined the scene. I can only conclude that during the course of the search, the material was left by gardai once they had moved onto another area having found nothing,” Mr Ennis said.

Mr Ennis said he did not know the names of garda officers would would have been involved in clearing the scene.

The Smithwick tribunal was set up to look at allegations of garda collusion in the 1989 IRA killings of two senior RUC officers, chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan, as they returned from a meeting in Dundalk Garda station.