NewsCrime Desk

“Tosser” loafed by veteran mobster in jailhouse fracas

Crime DeskBy Eamon Dillon
Perry Wharrie
Perry Wharrie

VIOLENCE in prison is nothing new, but when two top dogs go at it the ripples can be felt far beyond the high walls and razor wire.

When Perry Wharrie threw a headbutt at Brian ‘the Tosser’ Meehan in Portlaoise Prison last week it signalled a major shift in the gangsters’ grip on power behind bars.

Wharrie, a career criminal previously convicted for the murder of a police officer in the UK, isn’t the type to back down.

Serving 17-and-a-half years for a €440 million Dunlough Bay cocaine seizure, 56-year-old Wharrie is a veteran mobster.

At one point there were fears that a group of ex-Paras had been hired to spring him from custody during his trial in Cork, prompting extra-tight security.

Likewise, Meehan, the only person serving time for the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, is still a gangland heavyweight and a major broker in drug deals on the outside.

Whatever satisfaction Wharrie may have got from smashing his forehead into Meehan, it is likely to have evaporated very quickly.

Wharrie is now in protective custody after the violent bust-up in Ireland’s only high-security prison.

 “There isn’t room for two alpha dogs in one prison and it looks like Wharrie has lost out,” said a Sunday World source.

The reasons behind the clash aren’t clear, but the result is that Wharrie has lost his status and is unlikely to return to the elite inmate fold on C-Wing any time soon.

It is possible he’ll be transferred, but because of his background there are few options open to prison bosses.

Meehan still wields considerable power in the criminal underworld.

At one stage he wore his clout on his wrist, until the CAB sold off two designer watches worth €30,000 found in his cell in 2008.

He established his power when he ended a self-imposed exile from other inmates and the first to feel the change was John Gilligan.

Even before Meehan emerged from ‘The Base’ at Portlaoise Prison, a younger thug attacked Gilligan, punching him back into his cell.

That signalled the end of Gilligan’s time as top dog behind bars and he spent much of his remaining five years in prison quietly in his cell and in the segregation unit.

Gilligan’s attacker has since risen through the ranks on the outside and became a key henchman linked to the Kinahan Cartel.

 

Brian 'Tosser' Meehan

He was allegedly behind the attempts on Gilligan’s life when the drugs baron was released in October 2013.

Meehan has kept his grip on power behind bars, where he is likely to remain for a long time to come.

Last month he lost his last legal battle to have his conviction declared a miscarriage of justice, when the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

Wharrie, however, had some luck in the appeal courts when his 30-year sentence was last year reduced to 17-and-a-half years.

However, Wharrie can’t expect to enjoy freedom on his release and is expected to be immediately transferred back to the UK to serve out his life sentence for murder.

In 1989, Wharrie, along with two other men, was convicted over the shooting dead of off-duty police officer who had intervened during an armed robbery in England.

During a struggle, a single shot was fired by another person, which killed the officer.

Wharrie was given a life sentence for the officer’s murder, but was freed on licence in 2005 having served 16 years.

He has been in custody in Ireland since his arrest in 2007, when his attempt to smuggle 1.5 tonnes of cocaine through Ireland went wrong.

The plot unravelled when a rigid inflatable boat got into difficulties off the south-west coast, causing the craft to drift and sink in rough seas. The cocaine had been transferred to the craft after a rendezvous 48km off the Cork coast.

Co-accused Martin Wanden was also originally sentenced to 30 years, while another key conspirator, Joe Daly, got 25 years.