Hit's not me: Gangster Russell says mob pair were not sent to take him out

NewsBy Alan Sherry
Dean Russell.
Dean Russell.

The gangster believed to have been the target of a hit foiled by gardai has denied he is involved in a feud, saying: “If they wanted to kill me there are easier ways to do it.”

On Friday afternoon, heavily-armed officers dramatically arrested armed robber Paul Zambra and convicted criminal Anthony ‘the Giant’ Callaghan on Clonshaugh Avenue in north Dublin. 

Two firearms were found in a BMW being driven by Zambra,  while O’Callaghan was arrested in a nearby van. 

It is believed the pair were on their way to the home of one of north Dublin’s most notorious criminal figures, CAB target Dean Russell (46).

Gardai are investigating if they foiled a hit on Russell, whose brother Anthony was shot dead as part of the Sheriff Street feud in Artane in 2008. However,

Russell told the Sunday World he does not believe he was the target. 

“The police knocked up to my house after they arrested them and my daughter was there. They said they were checking under the car for pipe bombs, but they haven’t come back since and I haven’t been informed my life is in danger.”

“This is nothing to do with me. I wasn’t even in the country yesterday. I only got back to the house at 6.15am today. If they wanted to kill me there are plenty of easier ways to do it.”

He said gardai did call to his home after the arrests and checked under a car in the driveway. 

“The police knocked up to my house after they arrested them and my daughter was there. They said they were checking under the car for pipe bombs, but they haven’t come back since and I haven’t been informed my life is in danger.”

It is believed gardai also checked under the vehicle for a tracking device, but Russell said he is unaware if they found one.

Russell, who has a number or convictions, including one for armed robbery, said he is no longer invovled in crime and can see no reason why anyone would target him. 

“I don’t have dealings with criminals. I keep a close set of friends, I don’t have any enemies. I’m not involved in feuding, I don’t owe any money, I don’t know Zambra or Callaghan. I don’t even know what they look like.”

“I’ve got letters before five or six times saying my life is in danger. My brother got a letter the day he was killed and he went out that day and he was killed.

I haven’t got any letters recently and the police haven’t been up to my house since.”

He added that there are two other feuds going on in the area and it may be related to them. 

“I’m adamant it was nothing to do with me. Unless it’s something I don’t know about and I normally have a good idea.”

Gardai foiled a previous hit attempt on Russell in 2009. Criminals from the north inner city were involved in that plot.

Anthony Russell.

Russell said all he wanted to do was get on with his life and that the publicity has upset him.

“I’m only interested in raising my kids and my grandkids and being invovled in Kilmore Celtic.

“And, you know, it has not only upset me, but it has also upset all of my family. I’m disgusted that this is all in the papers and the neighbours are all hearing about this.”

“I just want to be left alone. I don’t know why my name is getting dragged into all of this again.”

Russell has a number of convictions and CAB secured a €400,000 judgement against him in 2014. Judge George Bermingham said Russell had “a prolonged and deep history” with criminality. 

Russell said that people have an impression he’s a “multi-millionaire gangster”, but that isn’t the case. 

“The houses are all repossessed, other than the family home I’m living in for 20 years. I have had dealings with CAB, but that’s over stuff going back years.

Witnesses to the latest incident said they were shocked when gardai moved in to make their arrests. 

“There was a car driving down the road and out of nowhere a two jeeps came along and blocked it in. Suddenly there were unmarked cars everywhere,” said a witness.

Armed officers from the Emergency Response Unit along with the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau and other units were involved in the operation. 

They had the suspects under surveillance as part of an intelligence-led operation and moved in to prevent the shooting taking place. 

A source said: “They were being monitored in the run-up to Friday and there was information they were planning to carry out the attack.”

Sources said a tracking device had been placed on Russell’s car in the lead-up to Friday. 

It is understood gardai had the criminals under electronic and physical surveillance and it is hoped as well as possession of firearms they may be charged with conspiracy to murder. 

Zambra, from Ballyfermot, was cleared of a gangland shooting three years ago. He had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Sean McMahon (36), who was shot dead in Tallaght in 2007. 

There was a legal argument during the trial and afterwards the prosecution said they were not offering any more evidence. As a result the judge directed the jury to acquit Zambra. 

He has several previous convictions, including a 10-year sentence for stabbing three prison officers with a syringe filled with hepatitis C-infected blood when he tried to escape from the Mater Hospital. 

Gardai believe they may have foiled a hit.

He also has convictions for a number of armed robberies and has been arrested numerous times for major gangland crimes. 

His associates were linked to the murders of Brian Downes (40) and Edward Ward (24), in Crumlin in October 2007 and career criminal John Berney in March 2008. 

Callaghan, with an address in Clonee, west Dublin, is a drug dealer who recently served an eight-year sentence for the attempted armed robbery of a bookmaker coming back from the Irish Grand National. Gardai foiled the robbery after receiving intelligence that Callaghan and four other men had planned to hold up John Carthy of Chronicle Bookmakers on April 17, 2006.

The gang armed with weapons approached Mr Carthy, but didn’t realise there was a detective hidden in the back of a jeep and more gardai watching the group. 

The Criminal Assets Bureau secured a €1.3m judgement against Callaghan in 2009 

Gardai previously foiled another hit attempt on Russell’s life in January 2009. Gardai spotted Gerard Byrne (25) and Paul Beatty (28) in a stolen Audi A5 on Russell’s Road on January 21, 2009. 

A Magnum revolver, two petrol cans and latex gloves were found in the car. Beatty later told a prison officer he had been on a “mission” to “whack” someone.

Byrne was previously questioned by gardai over the murder of Gavin McCarthy (22) who was shot dead on Sheriff Street in October 2008. Byrne was 17 at the time of the killing.