The bust, as is the way in the drug world, had a catastrophic domino effect.
It resulted in the jailing of a major U.K. drug lord as well as Newry farmer Aiden Smyth, who got an eight-year sentence this week for his role in the conspiracy to import drugs.
A 50-year-old haulier from Dundalk has also been caught up in the net that has resulted in 16 people being charged with drug offences. The wealthy businessman is due for trial in December after being extradited from Ireland.
And it resulted, inevitably, in the man blamed for the bust lying in a pool of blood, when Hutch was hunted down to a Spanish apartment complex.
The beginning of the end for Hutch began in February 2014 when the Volkswagen van was pulled over near a service area at Sandbach in Cheshire. Officers discovered a cargo of cannabis packets and a white powder substance packed in among frozen goods.
The bust was a huge coup for Titan, the north west’s regional organised crime unit, which has enjoyed unprecedented success as one of the U.K.’s foremost drug-fighting wings. The information was so good and precise that it could only have come from within a tight-knit group who knew details of the plan to deliver the goods through an Irish transport firm to locations in the U.K.
From the off, officers knew that this was a big one. More than 100 50-gramme packets of cannabis were packed into the refrigerated goods, along with 225 kilograms of the powder which was later tested and found to be ketamine.
The wholesalers, the cops suspected, were the Kinahan drug cartel, but the seizure of the consignment would mark the start of a whole lot of trouble for senior gang lieutenant Gary Hutch.
The ripple effects of the seizure were vast and the probe would lead to the arrest and jailing of one of Manchester’s most-prolific drug lords, Paul Doyle, along with the virtual wipeout of his gang. His sidekick Michael Manning (52), of Salford, was also jailed.
In the criminal underworld, this was one case where the rat would have to be found and would have to pay.
Over the following months officers uncovered what they now believed to be a £300million drug ring that was linked back to Spain and to the Kinahan mob. As the probe spread, the Kinahans were coming under pressure to find out who had sparked the collapse of a lucrative racket. In Spain, the finger of blame was being pointed at Hutch.
Known for his loose talk and volatile nature, Hutch was one of Daniel Kinahan’s best friends and closest lieutenants. Over a seven-year period on the Costa he had firmly established himself at the very top of the Kinahan cartel and was trusted with organising shipments from all over the world to customers of the mob.
He denied any involvement of snitching on the Manchester gangsters – but as the accusations began to fly, his own mob eventually began to suspect that he was indeed a rat.
In May, when Jean Boylan died, the cartel travelled to Ireland for the funeral of the estranged wife of ‘Dapper Don’ Christy Kinahan and the mother of his two children, Daniel and Christopher Jnr. Before the funeral – which was held on Thomas Street in the south inner city – graffiti was painted in red on the walls of a nearby Russian Orthodox Church with slogans that read 'Gary Hutch U Rat'.
Hutch insisted he was innocent, but even the dogs on the street knew he was being blamed and the graffiti was a huge embarrassment to the Kinahan brothers.
In Manchester, the seizure had thrown up a huge amount of intelligence and the focus turned to gangster Paul Doyle and his links to foreign gangs. It was found that he had funded a heroin run from France and had been bringing in vast amounts of cocaine.
One by one his associates were arrested and brought in.
In July, officers in the U.K. swooped on properties in Altrincham, Prestwich, Salford and Bolton in a high-profile drug bust that saw them battering their way into the properties of suspected kingpins, including the home of Doyle. Larger-than-life Doyle, a 56-year-old father of two, bought his million-euro home claiming his wife was a company executive, while claiming benefits.
Back in Spain the heat was now firmly on Hutch. Within weeks of the busts, boxer Jamie Moore miraculously survived when he was shot in the garden of Daniel Kinahan’s Costa home.
Officers believe the innocent fight coach was gunned down in a case of mistaken identity and while Daniel Kinahan made the bizarre move of asking Spanish police for protection, Hutch fled for Amsterdam.
In October, four more arrests were made, including that of Newry haulier Aiden Peter Smyth, who was charged with conspiring to supply ketamine and cannabis.
Extradition proceedings began in Dublin for another businessman from the Dundalk area whose case has yet to be heard in the U.K. At the same time, Gerard ‘Hatchet’ Kavanagh was whacked in Marbella and sources immediately blamed the Kinahan mob of taking out their own.
In Ireland, the businessman fought extradition towards the end of 2014 and into the New Year. In March, Paul Kavanagh, the brother of Hatchet, was assassinated on a Dublin street. Time was running out for Hutch.
He returned to Dublin a number of times this year, including last February when the Sunday World snapped him on his way to visit his family. In April, the law finally caught up on Doyle and he was jailed for 16 years after pleading guilty to flooding the north west with drugs over a two-year period.
As trials loomed for Smyth and others that had been caught up in the net, the Kinahans came under increasing pressure to deal with their rat. Over the summer, a senior member of the Kinahan mob visited Hutch’s parents home and demanded €100,000, saying that if they could come up with the money his life would be spared.
It is understood that Hutch met with ‘Fat’ Freddie Thompson and with associates of the Byrne brothers, Liam and David. He told them that he had never been a rat.
The Sunday World understands that the gang called Hutch’s bluff and told him he was welcome back in Spain. They also furnished him with some information to see if it would get back to them.
Sure enough, Hutch passed on the information. He was murdered at an apartment complex in Miraflores in Spain where he had been living. He was buried last Monday week in Dublin after his parents Patsy and Kay returned his body from Spain.
A day later at Manchester Magistrates Court, Smyth was sent away for eight years after pleading guilty to his role in the VW van bust. Another bloody gangland circle was complete.