Violent thug Paul Zambra and associate handed serious jail time

Paul Zambra
Paul Zambra

Two men who were caught "red handed" with loaded guns and a can of petrol with "an intent to endanger life" have been jailed for 10 and 12 years.

Paul Zambra (39) and Anthony Callaghan (45) were caught following a three-day surveillance operation by specialist gardai.

Zambra, of Inagh Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin and Callaghan, of Millrace Road, Phoenix Park Racecourse, Dublin both pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of a Ruger Revolver and semi-automatic pistol with intent to endanger life at Clonshaugh Avenue, Coolock on May 29, 2015.

The men were stopped by gardai who mounted a surveillance operation in the Coolock area and a search of the BMW driven by Zambra yielded two firearms and a full petrol can.

Callaghan's previous convictions include attempted robbery and possession of a firearm. Zambra has convictions for robbery, larceny and road traffic offences.

Judge Melanie Greally said the men were caught "red handed" and although she accepted that they pleaded guilty, she described the evidence against the men as "overwhelming".

She said Zambra was a man with "a history of violent crime" and that Callaghan has previously been jailed for firearm offences connected with a robbery.

Judge Greally said guns when discovered by gardai were in "optimal readiness for use" and their capacity to endanger life was "considerable".

She accepted there was no evidence as to why the men had the weapons but added "the venture for their intended use was imminent".

Judge Greally sentenced Callaghan to 12 years in prison and Zambra to 10 years after commenting that there was "a significant public interest in deterring firearm offences".

Detective Garda Glen Somers told Vincent Heneghan BL, prosecuting, that gardai acting on confidential information mounted a surveillance operation over several days on the movements and activities surrounding a number of vehicles driven variously by Callaghan and Zambra.

On May 29, 2015 gardai became aware that a white Nissan van driven by Callaghan with Zambra as a front seat passenger was on its way to Coolock. Zambra was dropped off at Clonshaugh Crescent where a blue BMW estate was parked.

Zambra got into the BMW and drove onto Clonshaugh Avenue, in a direction which was in close proximity to the Riverside Estate. Callaghan drove off onto Clonshaugh Road.

Gardai made tactical stops of both vehicles at about 12.15pm and arrested the men.

Zambra had attempted to drive off after being directed to get out of the car but was boxed in by a squad car. Inside the BMW, gardai recovered a full five-litre petrol container, a semi-automatic pistol wrapped in newspapers and a revolver wrapped inside a neck warmer.

The semi-automatic pistol had a silencer attached and its safety catch was off. The Ruger Revolver was loaded with five rounds and had its serial numbers drilled off.

Both men exercised their right to silence during garda questioning. Gardai recovered CCTV from Topaz in Mulhuddart and identified Zambra as the person purchasing the petrol. Both vehicles seized were registered under false names and addresses.

Gda Somers agreed with Sean Guerin SC, defending Callaghan, that when his client was stopped he was driving away from the Riverside area. He agreed that there were no other outstanding matters in which Callaghan was a suspect.

Mr Guerin submitted there was case law outlining a clear distinction between an intent to endanger life and intent to kill. He asked the court to also take into account his client's early guilty plea.

He said that whatever had been afoot, Callaghan had been driving away from "the scene" when he was stopped by gardai and there was no evidence of evasive manoeuvres.

Michael O'Higgins SC, defending Zambra, said his client was a father of one who was separated from his partner. He had a "fairly serious" drug problem since he was 16 years old but there was no suggestion his involvement in this offence was due to his drug history.

He submitted that while the court might infer from the sightings of the vehicles in the area that there was an intent to endanger life in the environs, this was different from an intent to seriously injure or kill.

Mr O'Higgins said that Zambra has applied himself well while in custody and asked the court to take into account his prompt guilty plea.

Fiona Ferguson/Sonya McLean