Lusk Families: 'We want to know the truth'

The families of the men killed by Gardaí at Lusk post office speak for the first time to John Byrne

The families of the two men killed by gardaí in the post office in Lusk in May last year have alleged sustained harrassment by gardaí since the killings. Sandra Griffin, Colm Griffin's sister, said local gardaí regularly made "snide remarks" to family members, such as: "The scumbags are dead, they're gone now." Colm Griffin's brother Kenneth Griffin described one incident where gardaí pulled up in a garda car alongside a female relative of one of the men and shouted at her, "We're glad he's dead."

Charlene Hogan, girlfriend of Eric Hopkins, said she had gone to Store St Garda station to try to stop the harrassment. "About a week after Eric was killed I was in the car with Luke [her son] and a garda stopped me at a checkpoint... He told me to pull in and get out and they started questioning me at the side of the road... It was the same guard stopping me the whole time. He stopped me one time when I had a young child [not her son] in the back of the car and started telling me what happened in the robbery – what van they were in, what clothes they were wearing."

The families of both men are angry at the way in which gardaí dealt with the post office raid. Gardaí had advance information on the robbery and saw the men travelling in a stolen van to Lusk an hour before the shooting. Yet the men were still able to gain access to the post office with a loaded weapon.

Kenneth Griffin says, "The gardaí knew [Colm and Eric] were coming. Why didn't they stop them before they came to Lusk? They were travelling in a stolen van, and that's a crime. Why were they let get that far? And the police put the public in danger by letting [Colm and Eric] get that far.

"We want to know the truth about what happened in Lusk that morning. If they don't give us the truth, they'll give it to the European court, hopefully."

Kenneth Griffin said Colm Griffin had been threatened by gardaí prior to his death. "Three weeks before Colm was shot, he was threatened by two policemen outside a pub in Sheriff St. They said, 'Griffin, we'll get you, dead or alive.'"

"Don't get me wrong, I know they were there for an armed robbery. But they could have arrested them. They could be alive today." The families rubbished media reports that the families are fighting with each other. Kenneth Griffin said the two men had been "the best of mates". "There is all this rubbish about there being a drug debt between them. And [the media] were saying that Colm was one of the biggest drug dealers in Ireland. Why would he be robbing a post office then?"

Sandra Griffin said the families knew the gardaí were feeding information, and misinformation, to the media, but that there was nothing they could do about it. "If we went to those papers to complain, they'd make a bigger deal out of it, so we don't bother."

Kenneth Griffin said the Garda investigation into the killings was inadequate. "It's guards investigating guards... I went down to see the guard who was carrying out the investigation into the shooting, and I felt like I was being questioned. They were asking us if we knew if Colm was planning the post office robbery, stuff like that. We said we were here to discuss what happened in Lusk, about the murder of Eric and Colm. So I just got up and walked out."

Speaking about his son, Peadar Hopkins said: "Eric was looking for work just before the robbery. He'd been everywhere. It was very hard to get a job when the police were around you the whole time... He was in and out of prison, but he was never in for armed robbery or anything like that."

"Colm was on heroin from the age of 15 and he was never out of trouble on account of being on drugs," said Sandra Griffin. "After years though he got help and he got his life together. He got a job [as a labourer] with Hegarty's. He was working for them for six or seven years."

"There was an incident in the family, where CAB [the Criminal Assets Bureau] came and investigated every member of the family," said Kenneth Griffin. "CAB told the Drugs Squad, who told Hegarty's that Colm was a big drug dealer. Now here was Colm working six days a week with Hegarty's. How could he be a big drug dealer?"