NewsCrime Desk

Manhunt under way as associate of Mr Big goes on the run from jail

Mountjoy Prison
Mountjoy Prison

A criminal associated with the notorious 'Mr Big' crime gang has gone on the run from prison.

Kevin O'Keeffe (32), originally from Darndale, north Dublin, failed to return to Mountjoy Prison last Friday after attending an addiction treatment centre in Coolock.

O'Keeffe has been in jail since August 2013 and is serving combined sentences totalling six-and-a-half years.

He is not due for release until December 2018.

The career criminal failed to report back to the jail after attending a training and education programme at the north Dublin facility.

A manhunt is now on for the missing prisoner and when he is caught he is expected to be taken to a full security jail.

Sources said O'Keeffe was believed to be hiding out in the Coolock area of the city.

The on-the-run inmate was caught with €32,000 worth of heroin in November 2012, which sources say was owned by the feared 'Mr Big' crime outfit.

The gang controls a vast patch of drug territory stretching from Clontarf all the way up to Drogheda, Co Louth, though its stronghold is in the Coolock, Darndale and Donaghmede areas of Dublin.

However, O'Keeffe is not considered a main player in the gang and most of his current jail time relates to robbery and false imprisonment.

That incident happened at the Spar shop in Clarehall in October 2012. He was also involved in another theft at a cafe in the Mater Hospital in December 2012.

Since being locked up almost four years ago, O'Keeffe has been relatively well behaved and was moved to the training unit in Mountjoy Prison in January last year.

Three months later, he was approved for temporary release to attend case management programmes such as the one he visited last week before he absconded.

Jail sources said there had been no indication that he would "go rogue" and it was expected that he might hand himself back in to serve the remainder of his sentence.

It is understood O'Keeffe is friendly with gangster Mark McCarthy (32), of Elmdale Crescent, Ballyfermot, who recently pleaded guilty in a false imprisonment case.

Authorities are confident that O'Keeffe will be caught.

Such cases are relatively rare in Irish jails.

"The Irish Prison Service is committed to working with all appropriate agencies to ensure that those who abscond from custody are vigorously pursued until they are returned," a spokesman said in March, discussing a separate case.

In that case, Tallaght man John Paul Duncan (33) was extradited from the UK after he walked out of Loughan House open prison in February 2015.