NewsCrime Desk

Regency hitman revealed as cops nab pair in high-speed chase

Crime DeskBy Nicola Tallant
Picture: Courtasy of Irish Daily Star
Picture: Courtasy of Irish Daily Star

THIS IS the face of the Regency Hotel drag queen hitman, published today for the first time in chilling clarity.

The dramatic image – seized under warrant by Gardaí – captured the terrifying face of the gangland hits that have become a plague on our streets.

It sparked a manhunt that led to the dramatic arrest of a suspect following a high-speed chase on Friday.

The picture shows the heavily made-up face of a suspect that was part of the hit team who murdered David Byrne.

It captures the gunman’s cold expression as he flees from the scene of terror inside the Dublin hotel on February 5. Moments earlier he brazenly walked passed CCTV cameras and hundreds of witnesses as he sought out cartel chief Daniel Kinahan.

As he runs towards a waiting getaway vehicle he begins to remove the blonde wig that has disguised him.

His made-up face is covered only by black-rimmed spectacles. Dressed in a black puffa style coat and in knee-high boots, the gunman tightly clutches a handgun.

Gardaí investigating the murder of Byrne used specialised facial recognition technology in a bid to identify a man they believe is the drag queen.

On Friday night they swooped on two men after a high-speed chase in Dublin. One was a close associate of murdered gangster Gary Hutch. The other is understood to be one of the men Gardaí suspect of entering the packed hotel brandishing AK-47s.

He once worked for the Kinahan Cartel as one of their top killers. He was arrested in connection with the murder of Eamon ‘the Don’ Dunne and is suspected of being the hitman who killed drug dealer Paul Kavanagh.

Yesterday he was released without charge after hours of questioning. The drag suspect  was still being questioned by detectives at Ballymun Garda station, where the Regency investigation is based.

A second man who was also photographed fleeing the Regency, a man dubbed ‘flatcap’, was identified early in the investigation, but has yet to be arrested. He is from Tyrone.

Gardaí have been monitoring the movements of both men arrested on Friday for weeks as they pieced together the events of February 5. They were caught after officers from the Emergency Response Unit rammed into a car on the Malahide Road.

The black Nissan Almera had turned away from a Garda checkpoint, but was pursued before it was rammed at the entrance to Belcamp Lane. The duo were then arrested and were quizzed at separate Garda Stations under laws which allow cops to quiz suspects for up to seven days.

The arrests are the latest blow to the Hutch faction, who have been under huge pressure from gardaí since the Regency attack. Weapons used in the hit have been seized and a number of people are before the courts.

It is understood that gardaí have painstakingly pieced together the Regency operation.

SLAIN: David Byrne

More resources of the State have been concentrated on the Hutch faction because of the fact that subversives were used in the attack.

Ironically, that has given the Kinahan mob the breathing space they have needed to carry out their bloody retaliation. While they have come under intense pressure from the CAB, they have not been monitored with the same intensity as the Hutch faction, who have been hampered in their efforts to hit back.

In Crumlin, gangster David Byrne’s family are safer than ever in their stronghold, with a constant armed patrol in place near their homes. His father, the veteran gangster James ‘Jaws’ Byrne and mother Sadie have even been politely saluting the cops.

The taxpayer is footing the bill for the costly protection of the first family of crime in Ireland. Cops fear a bomb attack in the Raleigh Square area where they live among innocent civilians.

The Byrnes are the main targets of the Hutch side, who have suffered three losses with the murders of Edward ‘Neddy’ Hutch, Noel ‘Kingsize’ Duggan and Michael Barr.

Two key members of a Kinahan hit team suspected of carrying out the Hutch and Duggan slayings were arrested earlier this week, but released after two days without charge.

Meanwhile the cartel’s top lieutenants have been operating with virtual impunity. Daniel Kinahan, his brother Christopher Jnr, ‘Fat’ Freddie Thompson and Liam Byrne have all relocated abroad, but travel in and out of Dublin.

Liam, who was also a key target at the Regency Hotel, has been mainly based in the UK, where he has been keeping his drug business going.

It is understood he has been spending a lot of time in Birmingham with his brother in law, CAB target Thomas ‘Bomber’ Kavanagh, who runs a car business from his millionaire’s mansion in Tamworth.

Byrne has built his own personal hacienda in the heart of his working class neighbourhood, complete with a bar, a private playground, Jacuzzi and gym, and is believed to be terrified of getting shot just like his beloved brother.

Despite having a panic room in his house in Crumlin, Byrne is too scared to return home in case a Hutch hit team should strike again.

Byrne's home in Crumlin 

The north inner city which is the Hutch stronghold has proved more difficult and costly to secure, with armed patrols and checkpoints stretching in from as far afield as Finglas.

While the southside targets are geographically much closer together, on the northside the Kinahan targets are stretched further apart.

The actual cost of the drug feud to the Irish economy is hard to measure, but it is believed it will run into millions of euro.

However, the social cost to communities, young families living in the areas affected and anyone in fear of the gangs is immeasurable and will be felt for generations to come.

Meanwhile, the key players continue to rake in millions of euro. Liam Byrne has kept his family close since the murder of his brother David and has become concerned for the health of his surviving brother, James.

The Sunday World photographed James recently after he was arrested at Dublin Airport trying to board a flight to Spain, where we understand Liam had secured him a place in a €20,000 rehabilitation centre.

It is believed Liam had become concerned about how James was coping following the murder and wanted to help. However, he was in such an agitated state at the airport that flight attendants would not let him board a flight to Malaga and Gardaí were called.