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Terror tactics Court hears how 'under threat' farm worker and teen were used as pawns for Kinahan Cartel

Latvian farm worker and panel-beater Valerijs Vins (30), with an address at School Lane, Dunleer, Co Louth, had a drug problem and owed €20,000 to the wrong people.

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Footage showing Gareth Hutch gunned down at the door of his car.

Footage showing Gareth Hutch gunned down at the door of his car.

Gareth Hutch.

Gareth Hutch.

The funeral of Gareth Hutch

The funeral of Gareth Hutch

Johnny Keogh and Thomas Fox were sentenced over the brutal murder of Gareth Hutch.

Johnny Keogh and Thomas Fox were sentenced over the brutal murder of Gareth Hutch.

Regina Keogh was sentenced over the brutal murder of Gareth Hutch.

Regina Keogh was sentenced over the brutal murder of Gareth Hutch.

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Footage showing Gareth Hutch gunned down at the door of his car.

Terror tactics used by Kinahan cartel murder squads left unwilling players in no doubt that failure to carry out orders put them and their families in deadly danger.

The reality of being sucked into a lethal under- world plot orchestrated by killer Jonathan Keogh - now serving life for the murder of The Monk's nephew Gareth Hutch - was laid bare at a court hearing last week.

Latvian farm worker and panel-beater Valerijs Vins (30), with an address at School Lane, Dunleer, Co Louth, had a drug problem and owed €20,000 to the wrong people in early 2016.

With the Hutch/Kinahan feud at its murderous height Vins was left with little choice but to drive to Limerick in February that year to collect a parcel.

His 16-year-old passenger was another foreign national who owed gangsters money and later wouldn't answer garda questions "for my own safety."

They were pawns in a game being played above their heads, nothing but foot- soldiers, fodder to be fed into prison or an early grave.

When they left the Dublin area they had no idea where they were going or what they were picking up, as they got instructions via a mobile phone at every stage.

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Johnny Keogh and Thomas Fox were sentenced over the brutal murder of Gareth Hutch.

Johnny Keogh and Thomas Fox were sentenced over the brutal murder of Gareth Hutch.

Johnny Keogh and Thomas Fox were sentenced over the brutal murder of Gareth Hutch.

Eventually arriving near the railway station in Limerick city, they were directed to a back lane in a nearby estate.

Told to pop open the boot of the car, 'a man in a big coat' appeared and put a holdall bag in the boot.

Nothing was said between the middle-aged man and the two younger men in the car, who started the drive back towards Dublin.

Unknown to Vins or his teenage passenger, their fate had already been sealed at this stage as gardai in Laois acting on confidential information set up a surveillance operation to look out for the Offaly- registered car.

The car stopped at a service station before continuing the journey as far as the toll plaza on the M7, not far from Portlaoise.

At this point the gardai moved in to arrest the pair and searched the vehicle.

In the holdall, wrapped in a plastic shopping bag, was a Glock 9mm automatic hand-gun with 18 rounds of ammunition and ready for use.

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Gareth Hutch.

Gareth Hutch.

Gareth Hutch.

Also seized was the burner phone from which Vins and his passenger were getting their instructions.

In a previous court hearing, brought by the teenager's lawyers over the delay in bringing him to trial, gardai detailed how the pair were linked to Kinahan cartel killer Jonathan Keogh.

In the weeks that followed their arrest, gardai tracked down Vins and the teenager's movements from the previous few days and found CCTV of them meeting with Keogh.

Just two days before the trip to Limerick in February 2016, the pair had met Keogh at an Applegreen filling station in Lusk, Co Dublin.

Last week in court, Detective Karen Sourke, who arrested Vins at the toll plaza, described that meeting as the planning of the trip to Limerick.

During his interviews with gardai Vins told them that he owed €20,000 for drugs and by making the trip to Limerick it would cancel €10,000 of his debt. Vins, a young father of one at the time, also said that he was terrified by threats to him and his family

Det Sourke said in reply to Vins' defence counsel's question this week: "I do believe he was genuinely under threat."

While in prison on remand for a period on the charges Vins had to be placed under protection after threats were made to him by the gang behind the plot.

At Tullamore Circuit Court, Judge Keenan Johnson was told that Vins, now aged 30, is the father of a young boy and newborn baby girl.

Originally from Latvia, his father was killed in a work accident when he was aged 12.

Vins arrived in Ireland in 2008 and worked on farms in north Co Dublin.

His mother died two years later and Vins went on to develop a drug habit which led to the significant debt in 2016 at the age of 25.

Since his arrest he qualified as a panel beater, hasn't used drugs in four years or alcohol in 12 months and had "turned his life around", it was heard.

During the sentence hearing Judge Keenan Johnson criticised the fact that unregistered mobile phones are allowed to be sold, describing them as an invitation to commit a crime.

Judge Johnson said he was satisfied Vins had acted under coercion and the evidence was consistent that he hadn't known what was in the bag.

Vins is highly thought of by his employer and Judge Johnson said he was satisfied that society would not be served by imposing a prison sentence.

Instead, he sentenced Vins to three years on the gun charge, suspended for ten years with his €5,000 bail money to be paid over to two local charities.

The teenager involved in the case had previously been given a suspended sentence for his role.

Jonathan Keogh, who planned the attempt to get the gun from Limerick, is now serving life for the murder of Gareth Hutch.

The murder - in which a Makarov pistol was used to shoot Hutch - happened in May 2016, just a few months after Vins' arrest in the botched attempt to get a gun.

Also jailed for the killing were Thomas Fox and Keogh's sister Regina, who got a life sentence for her relatively minor part in the plot

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