NewsCrime Desk

Twenty years on from Veronica Guerin's murder, we find the scum who got away

John Traynor in Margate
John Traynor in Margate

This is the grotty English seaside resort town where John ‘the Coach’ Traynor has been hiding in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of Veronica Guerin’s murder.

While Traynor was always known for talking and was one of Guerin’s top contacts, he was in no mood to chat when the Sunday World tracked him down to a small flat in Margate, where he now spends his days.

Along with his partner Sharon Kiernan, he lives a modest existence in a town haunted by times past and cluttered with rusting fairground rides.

Traynor is also now one of gangland’s most haunted figures, keeping to himself in the small upstairs flat just outside the town. Save for a white Qashqai jeep, he shows  no outward trappings of the wealth he craved that drove him to a life of crime. However, Gardaí believe he is still associating with many old pals and has a role in plotting drug deliveries to the U.K. and Ireland. 

There is no doubt that Traynor was the one that got away. 

He has been on the run for 20 years and hasn’t returned to Ireland since the murder of the crime reporter he claimed as a friend on the Naas Road on June 26, 1996. 

He remains a suspect in the case and Gardaí believe that he furnished John Gilligan and his gang with the information that she would be appearing in court on that day, which facilitated the plan to assassinate her.

In an interview with the Sunday World Traynor said: “When John Gilligan organised that murder he f**ked everything up for us all. The minute it happened I knew my life was over.”

Traynor first fled to Amsterdam after the murder and was arrested there with Brian Meehan in 1997. While Meehan was extradited back to Ireland and was eventually handed down a life sentence for the journalist’s murder, Traynor was not, sparking suspicion that he was a Garda informant.

He was arrested in Holland again in 2010 and extradited back to the U.K. to serve the remainder of a seven-year sentence for a bond scam.

It is understood that his partner moved to England and settled in Margate, while he served out his time in Wayland prison in Norfolk.

On his release, the couple decided not to go back to Holland but to retire instead to the sunny south east.

Traynor’s friend Sean ‘the Fixer’ Fitzgerald was one of the few members of the old gang that kept in touch with the Coach. Fitzgerald was arrested and quizzed during the Guerin murder investigation but never faced any charges in relation to it. 

The pensioner still lives in Tallaght in Dublin and spends his days in court advising friends on their legal rights. 

The 67-year-old was also one of the few people who remained loyal to Gilligan and upon his old boss’s release from prison made calls to a host of criminals looking for money to get the crime lord back on his feet.

Fixer received a GIM (Garda Information Message) form warning him his life was in danger for his efforts to help Gilligan, after the Kinahan Cartel targeted the thug and his minder Stephen ‘Dougie’ Moran, who was blasted to death outside his home in March 2014.

Twenty years on from the Guerin murder, only Brian ‘the Tosser’ Meehan remains behind bars convicted of the killing.

Paul ‘Hippo’ Ward today portrays himself as an ordinary family man and lives in Kildare with his wife and three children. He was released from prison in 2005 after his conviction for the murder of Veronica was overturned.

The Sunday World caught up with him recently as he faced court in relation to a driving offence – but he refused to talk about the murder that changed Ireland. 

Dressed in a baseball cap and shades, he has clearly bulked up since his days as a gaunt heroin addict. When asked about Veronica’s murder he grunted “f**k off”, before jumping into a waiting car.

He is suspected of being back in the drug business.

Gilligan was back in the Supreme Court this week fighting on against the Criminal Assets Bureau’s bid to seize three properties from him.

One is the family home, a bungalow in its own grounds beside the Jessbrook Equestrian Centre, where Geraldine Gilligan still lives along with her daughter Treacy. The other two are properties in Leixlip and Corduff. 

As part of the appeal, the Gilligans are also seeking an order that it was unconstitutional to take the Jessbrook Centre.

Despite receiving free legal aid to fight the seizures, Treacy tried to flog us a Spanish pub after we set her up with two prospective ‘Russian mafia’ buyers.

She filed a Supreme Court affidavit two years ago claiming she was making just €200 a week from the watering hole. Yet she wanted €300,000 under the counter in ‘black money’ in exchange for the pub and also told us she was flogging a villa nearby.

Treacy claimed she and her daughter would be homeless if the State didn’t give her back her home in Lucan. Her mother Geraldine told a court that she survives on weekly jobseeker’s allowance of €186.

Dundalk District Court heard that up to 16 bank accounts in the names of the Gilligan family existed in 1996 and €15 million went through them. Most of the money was withdrawn in July 1996 – a month after the murder of Veronica.

All four Gilligans – John and Geraldine, daughter Treacy and son Darren – have been granted free legal aid, with the taxpayer footing their court challenges.

Last year, Geraldine told the Sunday World: “I’m still in this house and I am going to stay here until they drag me out in a box. I’m sure a lot of people would be delighted to hear that but I’m here every day, every day, every day.”

Just one member of the gang, Peter ‘Fatso’ Mitchell, remains in exile in Amsterdam after surviving a botched hit attempt in Spain. 

Patrick ‘Dutchy’ Holland, the man who pulled the trigger, has died and former gang members turned supergrasses Russell Warren and Charlie Bowden have relocated abroad.