NewsCrime Desk

INLA gunman quizzed by gardai over 25-year missing man mystery

Patrick McCrory (left)
Patrick McCrory (left)

This is the INLA gunman questioned by gardai in relation to a 25-year-old missing person cold case.

Cops this week began a fresh dig for the body of Charles Brook Pickard, believed to have been murdered in Kerry in 1991.

Patrick McCrory (58), who in recent years was acquitted of involvement in an INLA extortion gang, was extradited by Gardaí from the North in 2000 in relation to the disappearance of Pickard who has not been seen since he was abducted near his home in Castlecove, Co. Kerry, in April 1991.

Gardaí this week carried out a dig in a se­cluded area at Derrennageeha near the remote Ballaghisheen Pass, close to where Pickard’s burnt-out van was found three weeks after his disappearance.

McCrory, from Belfast’s Short Strand, has convic­tions for membership of a proscribed organisation and firearms offences and was previously a member of the INLA. He survived a shooting in an INLA feud in the 1980s and lost a brother to a Loyalist gun attack in the 1970s.

Charles Brook Pickard

Gardaí wrote to McCrory’s solicitor in 2000 to say they were satisfied that he “visit­ed the South Kerry area prior to the disappearance of Mr Pickard and was involved in a plot to steal money from him”.

Gardaí suspect that three men from the North were in the area working with local criminals to identify peo­ple to target for robbery. It is believed Pickard was identified by the local criminal as a drug dealer who had cash. His family insist he was not involved in drugs.

Brooke, originally from Yorkshire, England, moved to Kerry with his wife Penny in 1983.

He was a convicted drug dealer in the U.K. and also got into trouble in Ireland after he and another Eng­lishman, Stephen Terence Mead, were caught with a firearm in Dublin.

Mead later said in court how Pick­ard was a dealer who was supplying him with heroin. Mead, who spent some time living with Pickard in Kerry, said he and Pickard travelled to Dublin to collect £4,000 a Dublin man owed Pickard for heroin, but that man didn’t have the cash as other people owed him money.

Mead said that as a result of this, both he and Pickard agreed to go around with the Dublin man to col­lect debts. They were armed with the firearm and other weapons.

Pickard received a suspended sentence shortly before his disap­pearance, while Mead later received a custodial sentence of a year.

During his trial Mead said that he fled Kerry while out on bail after three men called to the Pickard home and threatened his life.

On April 26, Pickard was due to meet a neighbour to cut turf at his bog, but never turned up. Witnesses said he stopped to pick up someone who flagged him down and said his car had broken down on White Strand beach and he needed petrol.

Pickard stopped off at O’Leary’s garage and filled up a can with petrol before driving on to the beach.

The two men pulled into White Strand around 11.20am and the only other vehicle there was an orange Toyota Corolla. The car had been stolen in Kilkenny previously and five men had been spotted in it at various locations in the area in the days before the disappearance. One witness said some of the men spoke in Northern accents.

Another witnesses said she was riding a pony on the beach when she saw Pickard and the other man arrive. She said she then spotted a man in a balaclava come out from near a holiday home. Others soon followed and ran towards Pickard. Five men beat him in the car park before bundling him into his van.

The van was later found burnt out three weeks later, close to where the dig took place this week.

In 2000 Gardaí sought to extradite McCrory to the South for questioning over the disappearance.

In correspondence with McCrory’s solicitor, Gardaí said: “From an early stage of this investigation Mr McCrory’s alleged involvement in the disappearance was established and the Garda were anxious from this point on to interview him.

“We are satisfied that Mr McCrory visited the South Kerry area prior to the disappearance of Mr Pickard and was involved in a plot to steal money from him.”

The correspondence was brought up in a case McCrory took to chal­lenge the extradition. However, he was eventually extradited and arrest­ed by Gardaí for false imprisonment, but was later released by without charge after questioning.

Gardaí also wanted to speak to him about a 1992 incident during which a man was allegedly assaulted by McCrory, who was armed with an imitation firearm.

McCrory previously survived a murder bid when a gunman shot him and prominent dissident Bobby Tohill as part of an internal INLA feud in Belfast in 1987. One INLA faction released a statement after the attack accusing the pair of involvement in criminality. Both men survived the attack and both subsequently spent time in the Republic as a result.

Tohill moved to Dublin and joined up with the INLA brigade, but he fled the city after being blamed for a murder attempt on Martin ‘the Viper’ Foley.

A brother of McCrory was shot dead when UFF gunmen opened fire on him and a friend outside a Belfast bar in 1979.

In 2012 McCrory and two other men were charged with membership of the INLA, blackmail and threats to kill.

The charges came about after a three man gang claiming to be from the INLA turned up at a businessman’s holiday home in Omeath and said he would be shot if he didn’t pay £35,000.

However, the charges were dropped in 2013 after prosecutors were unable to bring a full file of evidence.

One of his co-accused was Damian Justin Morgan was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1993 for conspiracy to kill Dr Lawrence Kennedy — the leader of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland. He was released under the Good Friday Agreement.

Pickard’s wife Penny appealed to the people who killed her husband to hand themselves in this week.

“Ultimately, they are not going to get away with it – in this life or the next. Their best option is to come clean,” she said.