NewsCrime Desk

‘I’m devastated – I thought man who helped jail my son’s killers was safe' - mum

Joey with his mother Mary and Jonathan O'Reilly's mother Dolores (right)
Joey with his mother Mary and Jonathan O'Reilly's mother Dolores (right)

Two mothers stand united in grief, brought together by a brutal gangland killing that has destroyed so many lives.

Dolores O’Reilly and Mary O’Callaghan stand shoulder to shoulder with state witness Joey ‘the Lips’ O’Callaghan, who bravely came forward to get justice for a man he never even knew.

Joey was just 18 when he escaped the evil clutches of gangland heavies Brian Kenny and Thomas Hinchon, the men who killed Dolores’s 25-year-old son Jonathan in a cold-blooded assassination.

He risked his life to give evidence against both men in court and his testimony resulted in the pair receiving a life sentence for murder.

This week, more than 10 years on, Dolores met Joey and his mum Mary for the first time as they came together to fight once more against wrong  – because when it comes to the Irish justice system it seems the only ones who serve a life sentence are the victims of crime.

Joey, Mary and Dolores, along with others, have all written to the parole board to beg them not to release the killers, both of whom are applying to get out despite serving less than 10 years behind bars.

Psycho thug Kenny has already enjoyed days out to see his family, attended his son’s communion and is due for parole in October. Hinchon has been moved to Wheatfield and is also due for release in the coming months.

Joey has complained that he was signed off the State’s witness protection programme and has since been left to fend for himself, begging the Department of Justice and the gardai for help with his security as he faces the stark prospect of Kenny and Hinchon walking the streets once more.

He is under no illusion that the payback for giving evidence will be cold and quick.

In the intervening years, while he has been living under and assumed identity and in a different jurisdiction, he returned under cover and visited the grave of Jonathan.

He often laid flowers there, but Dolores never knew the bouquets had been left by the young man who gave up his life to see justice served.

 “For so long I wanted to meet this man. I just wanted to thank him for being so brave and to give him a hug,” says Dolores.

“For more than a decade I was under the impression that this wonderful young man was living a safe and secure life somewhere abroad.

“I believed that he had been given a second chance, having single-handedly put two murderers behind bars when he was only a child.

“I am devastated that was not the case.”

Kenny and Hinchon got ‘life’ sentences in July 2005 after Joey was forced into the witness protection programme and gave evidence at their trial. Both were also found guilty of threatening to kill O’Callaghan.

They had shot 25-year-old Jonathan, from Clondalkin, over a row with the small-time drug dealer.

O’Callaghan, who was living with Kenny and his partner at the time, told the court that he was ordered not to open his mouth to anyone about the killing or he would be murdered too.

He told the court that the pair had arrived back to milkman Brian’s

Finglas home and that Kenny told him he had shot O’Reilly outside Wheatfield Prison (inset). He also told the court that Kenny asked him to bury the gun and burn the clothes that he and Hinchon had worn.

O’Callaghan said: “I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid. He [Kenny] said he’d kill me if I opened my mouth.”

Joey disposed of the gun, but instead of returning to help get rid of the motorbike used in the murder he went home to his mother Mary and she accompanied him to Ballymun Garda station.

He told gardai what he knew and agreed to help jail the pair, and in the process became the youngest ever person put on the protection programme .

Ten years on and much has changed. While Joey was once guarded around the clock, he was later exited from the programme in what are now controversial circumstances.

He was signed off the programme and left to fend for himself. He has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

“He got justice for my son and this is the thanks he gets,” says  Dolores.

“He was beaten and abused by Brian Kenny, made to run errands carrying heroin for him and Hinchon and he was totally controlled by both of them and lived in terror.

“He led the gardai to the gun that was used to kill my son; he stood in the witness box at only 18 and was a prize possession for the gardai who got a conviction for these two dangerous men. We are shattered having learned that the past decade for Joey has been hell.

“He has been completely let down by the State and we feel while we have lost our son, and we miss him beyond words, there is guilt now in our home because we find ourselves questioning if Joey did the right thing at all.

“While Joey has reassured us that he has no regrets, we feel terribly guilty that instead of being decorated for his bravery, he has been thrown in a skip of hell.”

The Sunday World revealed last month that Joey is so terrified he is going to be shot dead that he walked into the Department of Justice in a bullet-proof vest and begged for help.

Nobody met with him, but after a year of begging he eventually got an audience with Assistant Commissioner John Twomey, who has assured him that he will look into his future protection.

Dolores now wants to do her bit for Joey too.

“I am determined not to let these animals Kenny and Hinchon see the light of day and I will stand with Joey and his mother Mary in our quest to keep them behind bars.