Gardaí investigate if member of force involved in loss of pump-action shotgun

Firearms experts also being canvassed as part of Garda’s criminal investigation to determine whether they handled the gun any time after it was first seized in 2009

Gardaí investigating the loss of a seized pump-action shotgun from the force’s supposedly secure evidence management system are trying to establish if Garda members played any deliberate role in the gun falling into the hands of criminals again.

A second line of inquiry is also examining whether a botched effort to dispose of, or destroy, the gun resulted in it staying intact, being lost from the chain of evidence and somehow ending up back on the streets.

News the pump-action shotgun had effectively been lost from the Garda’s possession, and was later seized for a second time during an operation targeting organised crime, was revealed by The Irish Times on Monday.

Amid serious concern about the matter, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has sent a report to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and the Policing Authority alerting them to it.


A major criminal investigation started last year when a pump-action shotgun was seized from criminals and ballistics testing revealed it was the same firearm seized in an unrelated Garda operation in 2009.

Garda records showed the gun should have been in secure lock-up since it was seized in 2009 but it had somehow been lost by the Garda and fell into criminals’ hands again.

The Garda investigation has resulted in a large number of inquiries being made, including with members of the force, in a bid to determine what happened to the gun. Investigators have been examining if anybody in the Garda effectively took the gun and sold or supplied it to a third party.

Some items held by the Garda are also destroyed or disposed of, in a regulated and documented way. This could include seized vehicles being scrapped, for example, or guns being decommissioned and then disposed of.

There are no records to suggest the pump-action shotgun was ever disposed of in that manner. However, detectives carrying out the criminal investigation into the gun have canvassed outside experts used to dispose of guns. They are trying to establish if any of those firearms experts handled the gun after it was seized in 2009.

The Garda records relating to the gun show it should have been in secure Garda storage when it was seized last year. Indeed, it was only when the gun was seized for the second time last year that its disappearance from secure Garda storage came to light.

While Garda Headquarters said the criminal investigation into the gun was in the “latter” stages, it was unclear when that inquiry would be concluded.

In reply to queries, Garda Headquarters confirmed the gun was seized, for the second time, in the last 12 months “as part of an operation into a feud between two criminal gangs”.

“Two days later, following examination of the firearms, the senior investigating officer found that one of the firearms, a pump-action shotgun, had previously been seized by gardaí in 2009. Records showed that it was supposed to be still in possession of gardaí in the east of the country.”

The pump-action shotgun was stolen in a burglary targeting a firearms dealer in the west if Ireland in 2004. While not recovered at that time, it was seized during an unrelated Garda operation, in the east of the country, in 2009. The gun turned up again last year during an operation against a different group of criminals, who gardaí suspect are involved in serious feuding.

When it was seized in 2009, the gun underwent ballistics testing and was then secured in the Garda’s property and exhibits management system (PEMS). It is used to securely store evidence and property seized by the Garda, though the pump-action shotgun was somehow lost from that system.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times