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Adrian Donohoe's wife tells court she will 'never recover fully' from her husband's murder

The Det Garda’s parents Hugh and Peggy Donohoe said they visit his grave every week.

Garda Detective Adrian Donohoe
Garda Detective Adrian Donohoe
Image: LEAH FARRELL

Updated Oct 14th 2020, 5:08 PM

“WE HAD A loving, happy family, but in just 58 senseless seconds everything changed forever,” the wife of murdered detective garda Adrian Donohoe told the Central Criminal Court today.

Speaking at a sentence hearing for her husband’s murderer, Caroline Donohoe said no words can express the impact on her life, the lives of her children and their family, colleagues and friends who all loved Adrian.

Aaron Brady (29) of New Road, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh was convicted in August of capital murder for shooting Detective Garda Donohoe dead during a robbery at Lordship Credit Union in Co Louth on 25 January 2013.

For the capital murder offence Mr Justice Michael White today sentenced Brady to life imprisonment. The Criminal Justice Act 1990 states that the minimum time that Brady will serve in prison for capital murder is 40 years.

Mr Justice White also sentenced Brady to 14 years for the robbery, a sentence that will run concurrently with the life sentence. The raiders stole just €7,000 during the robbery, which lasted 58 seconds.

The judge said that anyone who saw the CCTV footage or heard the audio recording of what happened at Lordship would be “shocked to the core”. He said Brady had loaded and discharged a pump action shotgun at close range into Adrian Donohoe and then proceeded to terrorise his colleague Detective Garda Joe Ryan who was still in the garda patrol car. The other raiders, the judge said, did the same to the credit union employees who suffered an “awful ordeal”.

He commended the meticulous Garda investigation and said he is not surprised at the life changing effect the crime had on former Detective Garda Joe Ryan, who despite having undergone “a minute of terror” immediately went to check on others to see how they were. “His behaviour was exemplary,” the judge said.

He described Adrian Donohoe as a dedicated officer, rooted in his community and held in high esteem. “I’m sure he was the type of officer who guided many young wayward men onto a different path.” He further described as “shocking” the young age of Brady who was 21 at the time of the crime.

He said it is difficult to comprehend the “everyday” activities of Brady in the lead up to and aftermath of the shooting. He went for lunch at a diner, had dinner at a friend’s house and following the shooting went for a “nonchalant” visit to his girlfriend, the judge said.

Brady’s previous convictions include criminal damage and dangerous driving from an incident when he drove a stolen car around Dundalk and crashed into a number of taxis and a Garda patrol car. He was awaiting sentence on that charge when he murdered Det Garda Donohoe and the prosecution said a motive for the robbery was his need for money to pay compensation so he would avoid a prison term.

He has further convictions at the District Court for public order offences.

Inside the courtroom

Inside the quiet and sombre courtroom, the parents of Det Garda Donohoe sat closely together, each wearing face masks, as they listened intently to the recap of the evidence.

The wife of Det Garda Donohoe, Caroline Donohoe, sat to the right of the courtroom supported by a friend. Det Garda Donohoe’s sister and his three brothers sat in the body of the court.

Brady, who was wearing a grey suit and red tie, sat in the dock staring straight ahead. His father and mother, Tony and Caroline Brady, were the only members of his family in the courtroom and they sat together directly behind him. The pair spent much of the hearing scrolling on their mobile phones.

Brady was instructed by Mr Justice White that he was not required to stand as the lengthy sentence was handed down. The killer showed no reaction when the sentence was passed and darted out into the cell area before prison officers had a chance to lead him from the court one final time, only briefly looking in the direction of his parents.

Brady’s legal team then followed him into the holding area.

It was heard during the trial that Caroline Donohoe visited the scene of her husband’s murder less than an hour after the shooting and identified his body.

In her statement today she said:

I will never recover fully from what I had to see. My heart breaks every time I pass there and sometimes I can’t get the images out of my mind for hours.

She added: “Nothing and nobody will ever replace Adrian in our home.”

Hugh and Peggy

Alan Donohoe read out an emotional statement on behalf of the late detective’s parents Hugh and Peggy. They said Adrian was the eldest of six and always looked out for the rest of the family. A talented footballer, he represented Cavan at minor and U21 levels and scored the winning goal in the final minutes of an U12 county championship game playing for Crosserlough.

“He was always so well met,” they said. “And he was a great help on the farm from a young age, always ready to help out, even after moving away from home he was always willing to come home and help on the farm.

He never forgot his mother’s birthday or mother’s day – always came with the best cards and flowers and the best presents.

He was, they said, “as good a son as anyone could have asked for. We miss him so much every day. The regular phone call and chats telling us about the kids and everything going on in his life.”

They added: “It’s hard to accept that such a good man could come across such evil on that cold, wet night.” He loved being a garda and was proud when he graduated at Templemore where he met his wife Caroline, who is also a garda.

Hugh and Peggy said they will never forget the gardaí coming to their door to deliver the news that no parent should ever receive. “It was such a waste of a good man by that evil, pointless act,” they said. They find life a struggle and some days feel it is not worth living, they said, adding: “We visit his grave every week, which is some comfort, but it’s no place for him, he should be here with us living his life.”

Det Gda Donohoe’s friend and colleague Joe Ryan was in the patrol car on the night of the shooting. Having shot Det Gda Donohoe dead, Brady and another raider holding a handgun pointed their weapons at the then Detective Garda Ryan and threatened to shoot him. In a written statement, Ryan said he had “no doubt they were going to shoot and kill me”.

He said: “That fear is something that haunts me every day. The images are so real and I fear it will always be that way.”

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Ryan continued to work as a garda for a time but was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and following the shooting dead of another colleague, Garda Tony Golden, he retired from the force having been deemed unfit for duty in 2018.

He would have had ten years left as a garda. He added: “I always feel guilty that it was him and not me.”

Adrian’s sister Mary Donohoe read a statement on behalf of all five surviving siblings, Alan, Colm, Martin, Anne and Mary. They described their big brother as “larger than life, large in stature but more so, large in personality. He was rarely in bad form and his enthusiasm and zest for life were infectious.”

He looked after all his siblings and was idolized by them. “The void he has left in our family is immeasurable. Every family celebration is tinged with sadness and his absence is still so obvious and upsetting.”

They described their parents as strong and admirable but said they haven’t been the same since Adrian’s death. They said they are grateful that their parents keep going, but seeing their mother lighting a candle in front of a photo of Adrian every day is “sometimes too much to bear”.

Finally, they turned their attention to their brother’s murderer, saying: “Aaron Brady will never comprehend what he has done to our family.”

Brady had denied capital murder and said he had no involvement in the robbery at Lordship Credit Union on 25 January 2013.

Brady has maintained his innocence despite the guilty verdict following a trial which lasted more than six months during which Brady’s legal team tested the evidence at length both in the jury’s presence and during legal argument in front of the judge.

About the author:

Eoin Reynolds & Alison O'Riordan

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