Gangland hitmen raking in blood stained cash thanks to murderous feud
THE brothers and their two friends cheered and whooped as they made their way back to Dublin from the commuter town of Ratoath.
High on cocaine and adrenalin, they had just notched up their second kill – and in that instant they had doubled their money.
This was big payday number two and they had just added another €100,000 to their blood money. Kingsize was dead and the boss was a happy man.
It seemed so stupid now to think that they could have blown so many opportunities had they succeeded on their first job back on New Year’s Eve.
Had it not been for Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch (below) and his sixth sense, the ‘feud’ as the media were calling it would probably have been all over before it ever started.
Two of the team had been tasked with the job to kill Hutch as he celebrated New Year in his favourite pub in the New Town in Lanzarote, where he had spent most of his time in recent years.
If you want to eliminate a serpent you have to cut off his head, and that was just what the cartel planned to do in a well-worn tactic of organised crime warfare.
Only problem was, it didn’t work. The Monk had smelt the proverbial rat.
The duo, both members of the so-called New INLA crime gang, had travelled to Lanzarote and had been told that their quarry was out and about enjoying a pint with friends.
But then something had gone wrong and when they did burst into the pub, their guns primed, he was gone.
They were left with no choice but to flee as fast as they could and to send the bad news back home. What they would later find out was that they weren’t dealing with any ordinary target in Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch.
He might have appeared to be an old timer to them, but Hutch was still razor sharp.
Back in Dublin they awaited their next job.
One of the duo lived right in the middle of Hutch heartland in the north inner city and would prove to be of particular use to the cartel in the months to come.
What they didn’t know was that he was also offering his services to Hutch’s associates and was planning the ultimate double-cross for the highest payer.
He was a well-known thug who had started out in a life of crime early and had once been caught making INLA bombs.
With a baby on the way he was desperate for cash and open to any class of employment. His side-kick was also well known to gardai in Dublin.
A violent cocaine user, he had once taken a savage beating from former Real IRA leader Alan Ryan and turned to the INLA for protection, vowing he would never be humiliated again.
The pair had been involved in extortion rackets for years and were willing to turn their hand to anything that paid good money.
To them murder was just another day’s work and they had no shortage of comrades to use as drivers and spotters.
The spark that ignited the war between the now divided Kinahan and Hutch factions of the mighty Irish mob on the Costa del Sol may have been lit in Spain but it had certainly come home to play out on the streets of Dublin.
When Gary Hutch (below) was gunned down in September 2015, accused of ratting on his business partners in the Kinahan cartel, nobody could have foreseen what was to come.
And Garda resources were already being eaten up by a string of investigations relating to the mob.
First there was the aborted hit on key members of the cartel outside the Red Cow Hotel two months after Hutch’s murder.
Then, Liam Rowe (below) had stepped outside for a cigarette and noticed two masked men in a car with a gun.
They sped off but Rowe ran back inside the boxing weigh-in and sounded the alarm, sending up to 50 members and associates of the mob running for their lives.
The next incident was the attempted shooting of a drug dealer and former Provo, David ‘Daithi’ Douglas, when he was out walking his dog near Killala Road in Cabra.
Douglas had been caught before with cocaine and served time but had been recently released.
Gardai initially suspected his shooting concerned a drug debt he may have owed.
A month later his friend Darren Kearns (below) was shot dead on the evening of December 30 2015.
He was killed in front of his wife after eating a Chinese meal at the Rising Phoenix above Cumiskeys pub on Blackhorse Avenue.
While it had emerged he hadn’t planned going to the restaurant until that afternoon, the professional hit team who murdered him had clearly been able to get two cars at short notice and had a strong degree of local knowledge.
Kearns had been shot several times, including in the head, with a handgun before his killers sped off in a BMW 5 Series that was later found burned out on Regal Park.
Initially gardai had concentrated their efforts on Kearns' association with a jailed criminal and talk that he owed money for drugs.
But intelligence had later linked his murder to the failed Douglas assassination attempt.
Both, it was suggested, had been identified by Kinahan soldiers as being the two involved in the Red Cow incident.
Quizzed about the aborted shooting, Douglas denied that either he or his dead friend were involved.
He insisted he was nowhere near the Red Cow on the night involved and claimed to have a rock-solid alibi to prove his innocence.
If Garda resources were stretched at the beginning of 2016, by February 5 management had a major nightmare.
Not only would they have to deploy a full murder team to investigate the assassination of David Byrne on the floor of the Regency Hotel but the wider incident would have to be painstakingly taken apart.
And that was before the personnel had to be found to secure the entire city from the raging clash of the clans.
Eddie Hutch’s murder, three days after the Regency attack, was the easiest money the New INLA hit squad had ever earned. The Kinahans had paid them €100,000 for the murder.
They were in and out of the house in minutes. But they had left behind a nightmare for the already overstretched Gardai trying to control a gangland rising of epic proportions.
In an effort to trace the cars that had been used in the hit and their routes to Poplar Row on the night of February 8, huge manpower was being bogged down in the countless hours of CCTV footage that had to be watched.
In order to work out how the hitmen had managed to make their way into the north inner city and pass the Garda ring of steel that had been in place at the time, it was vital to identify the car on any of the many arterial routes and then try to track it through the city.
Already investigating multiple feud murders and the paramilitary involvement in the Regency, the gardai were already spread thin when another high-profile murder in Dublin made February one of the worst months for gun crime in recent history.
Vinnie Ryan (below), the brother of murdered Real IRA boss Alan Ryan, was riddled with 13 bullets outside his partner’s home on February 29 in Finglas in north Dublin.
The gangster nicknamed ‘Mr Big’ was the immediate suspect in the assassination and it was believed that he had taken an opportunistic approach to his problem with Ryan by striking while gardai were stretched for resources.
Nonetheless, a full team of murder investigators were placed on the case and yet again a trawl of vast amounts of CCTV had become a huge draw on manpower.
By the time the remains of Noel Duggan were secured under a blue plastic tent outside his house, the most senior officer who could be found to head up the case had to be brought in from Bray in Co Wicklow.
There was no doubt but the same time-consuming and resource-heavy investigation tactics would have to be deployed to identify Duggan’s killers and nobody was sure where that manpower was going to come from.
Noel Duggan (below) was an easy target. The hit team had watched him for a week as he came and went from the home he shared with his wife Belinda at the Old Mill estate.
Located off the busy Fairyhouse Road, the house was simple to watch from an apartment complex nearby, the car park of which looked directly at Duggan’s front door.
From the outset his murder caused shockwaves, not least amongt members of the Hutch faction but also amongst the Garda Siochana already cracking under the enormous workload of policing what was fast becoming the worst feud in gangland history.
On the crisp morning of Easter Thursday, a hearse arrived at the Old Mill to remove the remains of the larger-than-life Kingsize from the front seat of his car and later his navy Mercedes was hoisted onto a recovery vehicle and taken away for examination.
A short distance away at Cairn Court, two vehicles that had been found on fire after the shooting, a black BMW and a Saab, were also being photographed and forensically examined by the Garda Technical Bureau.
Never had the Gardai and its specialist units been so busy – and never before had the force had to dig so deep to keep a lid on an escalating situation that would, in the coming months, get even worse.
Since the Regency Hotel, gardai had been undoubtedly on the back foot with a severe deficit of intelligence on the Kinahan gang and their wide pool of associates in Dublin.
Garda management were under enormous pressure politically to tackle the problem yet never was it so evident that years of cutbacks, a lack of recruitment and vast swathes of retirements had left the force at its lowest ebbs.
Emergency meetings were being held as a matter of course and while promises of additional funding, new specialist units and new equipment were coming out of the Dail, the fact remained that after years of austerity what resources were actually in place had to be concentrated as there was no way they could cover everything.
Tough decisions had to be made and Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan knew that she had to utilise the best of what she had while building for the future.
The Garda’s Special Detective Unit had for years managed the paramilitary threat in Ireland with huge success and had a wealth of experience in fighting crime and shutting down terrorist cells.
Because Hutch had used paramilitaries and weapons brought in from the north to stage his spectacular at the Regency, it had been decided from early on that his side were a threat to the security of the State and shutting down his operation was a priority.
From a policing point of view, the Kinahan faction were going to have to be tackled with international effort that would involve a commitment from the Garda’s Spanish counterparts and others.
There was no way the mob could be closed down overnight, but their own action had ensured that they would never again operate with impunity in an Ireland that had finally woken up to the threat of organised crime.
The overstretched Criminal Assets Bureau had been working on cases of a number of high-profile members of the Kinahan cartel for years but often had to prioritise other investigations and put them on the back burner.
Now, it was time for them to put their full energies into the mob - and their use of the second-hand car industry to launder their funds was the first port of call.
On a day-to-day basis, until the threat from both sides had subsided, there was little gardai could do save flooding the city with checkpoints, having constant support from specialist units like the Emergency Response teams and sitting on the homes of key players in the feud.
The constant presence of gardai outside certain addresses on both the northside and southside of the city was sure to draw criticism from those who cited the Gardai as personal security for gangsters, but the tactic was vital and had proved itself in the past.
Among the many skills of trained investigators is an ability to apply some informed speculation to an outwardly chaotic situation.
While the murder of The Monk’s brother Eddie was a frightening insight into what the cartel were capable of, it was largely accepted that it had been a kneejerk reaction to David Byrne’s slaughter.
Eddie’s death, it was felt, was an act of brutality carried out in the heat of the moment, an eye for an eye, a brother for a brother.
For Hutch it was a clear message about what he had unleashed, but gardai logically hoped that, following the funerals, tension would begin to abate.
The murder of Duggan proved just the opposite. No logic would apply to this developing feud and the slaughter was only beginning.
With April came spring but few had hopes of new beginnings in the feud which had already cost the State millions in extra security.
Just like the gang war itself, the Garda assault on the Kinahans was also only beginning. It seemed when faced with a crisis the boys in blue were well able to step up to the plate.
Early in the month officers had huge success when they recovered €65,000 worth of cocaine, €12,000 of heroin and €17,000 in cash during nine searches on south inner city homes linked to the gang.
The mob were being forced to stash their supplies and their money wherever they could and addicts and small-time dealers alike were being called on to facilitate them and to hold weapons and supplies.
A day after the raids, the Garda’s South Central Division stormed the home of Greg Lynch (below) who had been spotted in the Marylands area for the first time since Byrne’s murder.
Lynch wasn’t arrested but officers seized a number of financial documents and simultaneously swooped on four other properties in the south inner city, including the old home of mob boss Daniel Kinahan – the Oliver Bond flat where he and brother Christopher Jnr had grown up before they left to join their father’s international drug business.
Although the ground-floor flat was never going to be somewhere the Kinahans would now lower themselves to stay, it had been home to their late mother and the place where she went to die surrounded by her old neighbours and friends.
Since her death the brothers had kept the council-owned property like a shrine and had no intention on handing it back to the local authority.
Byrne and the now household faces of the mob were raging that they were being made look vulnerable, and business was suffering too as many distributors gave them a wide berth due to all the Garda attention.
They had just one tactic that had always worked for them and they needed to bring it out again to keep hold of their business and their drug territories.
The mob needed to do their damnedest to reclaim the streets of Dublin and to prove that they were frightened of neither gangster nor state.
Key players were now travelling everywhere en masse with a team of heavies for back-up but they wanted to show that they weren’t running scared and that they weren’t hiding from anyone.
The shows of bravado did nothing to take from the damaging publicity surrounding the raids. Days after Lynch was hit, the Bureau were out again – this time at a premises in West Dublin where 11 luxury cars were seized, all English-registered.
On April 14 the cartel tried to hit back at Hutch once more. On a bright spring afternoon an inexperienced hitman on the promise of blood money was rallied at short notice when the mob received a tip-off that Keith Murtagh – a key Hutch associate – was enjoying a pint in Noctors Pub near Sheriff Street.
As workers in the IFSC went about their day he made his way towards the pub at 12.30pm on a push-bike and shot a man in the head, killing him instantly.
For an amateur, it would have been a clean hit – had he got the right target. But instead of Murtagh, the assassin had killed a 24-year-old homeless man in the area to buy drugs.
Tragically, Martin O’Rourke (below), a father of three and with a baby on the way, had been accepted onto a rehabilitation programme due to start the following week. He had been hoping to finally turn his life around.
Instead, he became the first totally innocent victim of the feud, with no connection to the Hutch faction at all.
At his funeral he was described as “a young man who had very little in life – but who had a life".
Parish priest of the travelling people, Fr Derek Farrell said: “Many have said that Martin was at the ‘wrong place at wrong time’, but in the years ahead it will be important for his children to know that while he may have been at the wrong place, he was also on the right path.”