Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Pair in court over airport minibus hijack

Two men have been remanded in custody on charges relating to the hijacking of a minibus at Dublin Airport which was driven to Crossmaglen where it rammed a police patrol car before making off and later crashing near Castleblayney.

Cousins John McDonagh (26) and Stephen McDonagh (25), with an address at The Steeples, Navan, Co Meath, appeared before Cavan District Court on Thursday, charged with a number of offences including the unauthorized taking of a vehicle.

The incident unfolded in the early hours of Wednesday morning when the driver of a hotel courtesy minibus had left the vehicle outside the airport while he was assisting passengers.  It’s alleged the two men got into the vehicle and drove off at high speed with the doors open.  There were three passengers on the minibus who were waiting to be brought to a nearby hotel after their flight was delayed.

The minibus collided with a taxi as it left the airport and fled the scene being driven in an erratic manner at high speed.

They drove north on the M1 before stopping close to City North Hotel in Julianstown where it was claimed that the two men demanded money from the passengers.  They refused, however, and got out of the minibus.  All three were reportedly unharmed.

The two defendants then continued to drive north, failing to stop for gardai and ramming into a garda car.

The pair crossed the border and entered Crossmaglen where PSNI officers, alerted by gardaí, attempted to apprehend the vehicle.  The pair then rammed into a PSNI vehicle before speeding off.  

Garda Air Support Unit witnessed the vehicle crossing the border again before it crashed close to Castleblayney where the two men ran off before stealing a car from outside a house.

The men were then involved in a high speed chase in which they drove erratically and later rammed into an Armed Response Unit before being apprehended.

They were taken to Carrickmacross Garda Station for questioning before being charged.  

Thursday’s court hearing was told that more serious charges may apply after it is reviewed by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police received a report from our colleagues in An Garda Siochana that a stolen transit van had been tracked crossing the border.”

“Officers observed the vehicle in Crossmaglen Square and upon police entering the car park, the transit van collided with the police vehicle causing damage to the front of the car.  The transit van then made off from the area and re-crossed the border.  The PSNI officers were not injured during the incident.”

“There can be no doubt that the incident would have been an extremely frightening experience for the passengers who were on board the bus at the time of the hijacking and I am thankful they were unharmed during their ordeal,” he added.

Both defendants were remanded to Cloverhill prison until January 16th.