NewsCrime Desk

Kinahan cartel reaction following the Regency Hotel attack

Liam Byrne (centre)
Liam Byrne (centre)

In Chapter One of FEUD, the definitive recent history of Ireland's bloodiest gangland war, Sunday World Investigations editor Nicola Tallant delves into the mind of lead Kinahan henchman Liam Byrne.

Liam Byrne was awoken to the sound of an angle grinder cutting its way through his front door at his fortified Raleigh Square property in Crumlin, Dublin, which he shared with his wife Simoan McEnroe and their children. 

He hadn't had much sleep of late, with his mind pre-occupied with the murder of his brother David the previous month at the Regency Hotel. The scenes had played out over and over in his head and a black rage had been building inside him.

For an instant he didn’t know who it was that was coming for him but as he shook the sleep away, he quickly realised that this was the dreaded Criminal Assets Bureau and they were going to turn his house upside down.

Liam, known as a volatile bully who can't keep his temper, stormed down the stairs to greet the heavily-armed gardai at his door.

“What the f**k do yiz think yiz are doin', ya c***s? Have yiz a warrant?" he spat through the noise, his cheeks colouring and his cold blue eyes reddening.

Liam hates cops with a passion. In his world, gardai are at the bottom of life's pile - pathetic scum who earn a pittance doing someone else's bidding.

They had no right to be in his home, to be touching his things or to be pushing him aside and storming in with their dirty boots. This was his palace and they were not welcome.

It was little wonder why Liam held such strong and distorted views of the world. He had been reared with a sense of self-worth that elevated him above most ordi­nary members of society, and despite being a 37-year-old man and a father-of-three, he was still living in the shadow of his mother and father.

Liam Byrne

One of three boys and three girls born to James and Sadie Byrne, Liam had grown up in Crumlin under the schooling of his criminal dad 'Jaws', an expert forger with a long list of convictions for assault and armed robberies.

Sadie's sister Lisa had married Fred Thompson Snr, and among their brood were the brothers Freddie and Richie who grew up with Sadie's boys along with their other cousin Liam Roe from nearby Drimnagh.

By the time they were in their teens, Liam and brother David, along with Richie and Roe, had formed a band of brothers built on a bond of blood.

At the age of 21, Liam Byrne received a four-year sentence for a vicious assault on a former League of Ireland soccer player at the Abrakebabra takeaway in Crumlin Shopping Centre. He had beaten him, unprovoked, about the head with a baseball bat.

He ended up having his sentence extended by the Court of Criminal Appeal after it emerged that the assault led to one of the worst cases of witness intimidation ever known to the courts.

One woman had been forced to leave her home, was the subject of an as­sassination plot and was badly injured outside a courtroom after giving evidence in the case. Liam Byrne's sisters Melanie Johnston and Joanne Byrne were charged with assault after the incident, along with Joanne's partner Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh. There was no doubt but the Byrnes could rely on support from the family, if not from anybody else.

Mourners at Regency Hotel murder victim David Byrne's extravagant funeral in Dublin, including Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh (with sunglasses)

During his trial, gardai described Byrne as a particularly violent career criminal and a central figure in one of the largest drug-dealing gangs in Dublin-s south-inner city.

The gang fell out with the rival Rattigan faction during the noughties in a drug war dubbed the 'Crumlin-Drimnagh feud'. The result was the murder of 16 people.

By the time they emerged from battle they were a ruthless killing machine with control over some of the key territories in south Dublin and the inner city. They had also formed an alliance with the growing Kinahan cartel, who had taken their place at the top table on the Costa del Sol where they now mixed with Moroccan, Colombian and even Eastern European mafia gangs.

Liam, his brother David and their father Jaws had become regular visitors to the Costa. The brothers and their dad also spent long periods of time with Kavanagh, now married to sister Joanne.

After the incident in court and having handed over the keys of their Drimnagh home to the CAB, the pair had moved to Birmingham with no assets but in a short time had built up a hugely successful second-hand car business which had afforded them the lux­uries of a home fit for a Premier League footballer in the affluent suburb of Tamworth.

Bomber was respected and revered by his younger relatives and Liam often had to act as his driver when he visited Ireland in his top-of-the-range cars weighed down with gifts of expensive jewellery for his in-laws and family.

Liam and David had enjoyed some of their best years in the past decade. They loved their stints on the Costa, where they stayed at five-star villas and partied end­lessly in the clubs of Puerto Banus. They had finally made their way up the ladder after years of hard slogging on the streets and they believed that they deserved ev­erything they had as key lieutenants in an international drug organisation, including the luxury holidays to Cancun, the yachting trips off Spain, the €200,000 cars and the collections of designer clothes and jewellery.

Daniel Kinahan and David Byrne

Back home in Ireland they lavished their families with expensive gifts and spent a never-ending fortune blinging up their own homes with everything from special strobe lights in the patios to high-end security systems. They loved to impress the neighbours with their success in life, and had handed their own values down the line to a new generation of young criminals in Crumlin.

But things had changed for the Byrnes. Liam has been keeping a low profile in Ireland since the flash funeral the cartel had held for his beloved brother. While he likes to keep up appearances and look as if fears nobody, he knew his life was in danger and that he was a top target for the Hutch faction.

He had returned to Ireland with 'Bomber' Kavanagh just 24 hours before the CAB burst into his property on March 9. He had been staying with his brother-in-law in Birmingham as the cartel had re-grouped following David's murder.

For the cartel, avenging 'Baby Davey's' brutal murder was the number one priority. David, or 'Dots', was the apple of Sadie's eye, and the usually strong family matriarch had gone to pieces after his death.

In fact she regularly had to be driven around the city in the early hours of the morning, and had attended hospital a number of times due to her stress.

As CAB officers began to pull apart Liam Byrne's neat home he became more and more enraged. His Rolex watches and designer shoes were being placed into plastic bags and labelled like they were some sort of evidence. Down the street, his parents' house was being torn apart and across the road his dead brother's house, along with the freshly renovated home of his friend and business partner Sean Mc­Govern, was getting the same treatment.

"No f***ing repect," he murmured under his breath.

"Mind what yer doin', that’s a year's wages to you c***s," he mocked. And his tem­per was rising. His private papers and documents were strewn across the tables, his cash and jewellery was laid out like loot from a robbery; they had mauled his collec­tion of fine champagne and now Simoan was being asked to hand over her engage­ment ring. Did they want the shirt off his back too?

The rage that had been brewing all morning finally reached its peak and Byrne blew up, spewing a list of expletives at officers that was hardly comprehensible. In the bile that dripped from his contorted mouth, he blamed gardai and journalists for the raid on his properties and for the murder of his beloved brother David. 

Nearby, the third Byrne brother was giving gardai a piece of his mind too. James Byrne would later be removed from Dublin Airport after he was refused permission to board a flight to Spain, where Liam had paid for an expensive rehabilitation programme for him.

Computers, files and documentation were packed up and taken into garda cus­tody as well as four high-powered cars seized from the houses, including a €60,000 BMW 3 Series. A betting slip on a football game, a €38,500 wager that Liverpool would beat Newcastle in a game that night, was also recovered in Jaws and Sadie's plush home. Soccer boots signed by both Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez were found in glass cases but it was LS Active Car Sales, the business owned by Byrne and Mc­Govern, where the real wealth was seized. There in Bluebell Industrial Estate, CAB officers took 23 cars and six motorbikes valued in the region of €1 million.

The cars - including a €75,000 AMG Mercedes, a €70,000 BMW X5 jeep and a €50,000 Lexus Hybrid along with convertibles, LandRovers, Golf turbodiesels and a range of other luxury motors - were brought to the Curragh Camp in Kildare for storage in a secure unit under the protection of the Army. Nobody was taking any chances with the loot.

The CAB raid of LS Active Car Sales

Although the move against the top Kinahan lieutenants had been planned for a year, it was brought forward because of the widespread public outrage at the level of wealth shown at David Byrne's funeral. There were the 10 stretch limos, the €15,000 pale blue casket, the lavish floral tributes, the pipers, the horse-drawn carts, the motorcycle outriders and the rows of young men in matching blue designer suits and black shades.

While the cartel had planned the vulgar display as a show of strength - a message of their contempt for law-abiding society - the crass parade of wealth had backfired spectacularly.

And the busts by CAB on the Byrnes were only the beginning, set to be­come a major weapon in the gardai's fightback against the Kinahan cartel.

24 hours later there was more early morning wake-up calls across the city. This time Greg Lynch - the mob's top man in the south-inner city - was the key target and his associates took a hammering. Lynch had been lying low in since the Regency Hotel. He knew exactly what it was like to become a target, having survived a hit himself some years before. He still had the scars to prove it after losing part of his face to an assassin's bullet.

A massive €40,000 in cash was found at the property of an associate in the Liber­ties and GPS tracking devices were also discovered during other searches linked to Lynch. The trackers, gardai believed, were the mob's way of keeping tabs on their own associates. During the searches, a man believed to work as an enforcer for the gang was arrested on foot of an outstanding warrant and put behind bars.

Greg Lynch

Amidst the raids was a bust on a north-inner city Dublin pub right in the heart­land of the rival Hutch territory. Alfie Byrne's bar on Hill Street had been registered by Liam Roe, claiming his occupation as that of a bar manager. Other businesses raided included a recreational facility in west Dublin, a hairdresser's, beauty salon, transport and meat companies - all believed to be used as cover or as laundering facilities by the drugs gang.

An Inchicore property raided was the home of a close associate of convicted co­caine dealer Gareth Chubb, a key Kinahan distributor operating from Crumlin. Also targeted was a north inner city address linked to Dean Howe – another associate of the mob previously arrested by gardai investigating the shooting of Martin 'the Viper' Foley.

Lynch, Chubb and Howe had been earmarked as the second tier of the Kinahan crime conglomerate in Ireland, and amongst the seizures was more than €50,000 worth of jewellery and cash.

While Liam Byrne and his cohorts tried to put on a brave face about the raids, the fact of the matter was that they were bad for two things - image and business. The cartel had grown to its lofty heights on its feared reputation and brazen swagger as much as anything else, and the photographs of the battering rams coming through their front doors was not a good look.

Incensed with anger over the sudden garda crackdown, Liam Byrne was baying for blood and furious that more hadn't been done to avenge his brother's death. Dan­iel Kinahan had stayed away since David's funeral but it was important for the mob's presence to be felt again - it was time for the country to get a little reminder about who was in charge.