NewsCrime Desk

Dealer stalked by "professional hit team"

Gardai inspect the scene
Gardai inspect the scene

A drug dealer who was shot dead in front of his wife after eating a Chinese meal had not even planned on going to the restaurant.

Detectives suspect the "professional hit team" who murdered Darren Kearns received a phone call from an associate who had been stalking him on Wednesday afternoon.

"This was a highly organised murder that involved the use of two cars at very short notice," a senior source said.

"It had not even been the couple's original plan to go to that Chinese, so that will show you how quick the killers were to act.

"They knew exactly what they were at, and their actions before and after the murder show that they had a strong degree of local knowledge."

It emerged yesterday that Kearns and his wife had been at the Rising Phoenix Chinese restaurant above Cumiskey's pub on Dublin's Blackhorse Avenue from around 4.30pm and left shortly before 5.40pm.He was with her in their car in the car park when he was gunned down as he sat in the passenger seat.

Gardaí said it was "just pure luck" that his traumatised wife was not injured.

Kearns was shot several times, including in the head, with a handgun before his killers sped off in a light-coloured BMW 5 series that was later found burned out on nearby Regal Park.

Gardaí are investigating Kearns' role as a bagman for a jailed Cabra criminal he had been collecting cash for since the gangster, aged in his late 30s, was locked up last year.

"This is being looked at, and what is not in absolutely doubt is that Kearns had been an active participant in organised crime since he got temporary release from prison last February.

"The suggestion is that he was left in charge of things after a number of major local criminals were sent to jail, so gardaí are looking at whether his new position of responsibility led to his downfall in terms of him maybe being on the take."

Kearns was technically still serving a six-year sentence for drug offences when he was shot dead, but he had been out of prison for 10 months with his sentence due to expire next month.

Described by prison sources as a "model inmate", Kearns served much of his time in the relatively cushy regimes of Loughan House Open Centre and Mountjoy Prison's Training Unit.

He was granted temporary release a full year ahead of his due date.

Gardaí are unaware of any incidents involving Kearns in recent weeks or months which could have led to his murder, and it is understood he had no idea that his life was under threat.

Ken Foy and Conor Feehan