cold blooded | 

Four men involved in conspiracy to murder gangster Wayne Whelan jailed for total of 33 years

Whelan survived the murder attempt but was subsequently shot dead following another attack in November 2019

Wayne Whelan had survived a previous murder attempt

Eoin Reynolds

Four men involved in a conspiracy to murder gangland criminal Wayne Whelan have been jailed for a total of 33 years by a judge at the Central Criminal Court.

Whelan survived the murder attempt but was subsequently shot dead following another attack in November 2019.

Mr Justice Michael White on Thursday said he was "shocked by the callous indifference" shown by the men involved in the attempt to murder Mr Whelan.

He said Wayne Ryan, who pleaded guilty to attempted murder, had taken part in a "planned, cold blooded attack in broad daylight" outside Mr Whelan's home.

The blazing car in which Wayne Whelan was found dead in Lucan

Ryan (41) with an address at Lanna Aoibhann, St Michael's Road in Longford, but originally from Limerick, pleaded guilty earlier this year to the attempted murder of Whelan (42) at Griffeen Glen Park, Lucan, on September 4, 2019. Mr Justice White sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Three other men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder the father-of-three at that location between May 15 and November 15 2019.

They are Cailean Crawford (25), of Clifden Terrace, Ballyfermot; Darren Henderson (31), of Cleggan Avenue, Ballyfermot; and Charles McClean (32) of St Mark’s Drive, Clondalkin.

Mr Justice White sentenced McClean to eight years while he sentenced Henderson and Crawford to seven years with the final two suspended.

He said Ryan was at the scene and was one of two masked men in a van that lay in wait for Whelan.

He said Ryan had previous convictions including for firearms offences and the only mitigating factor was his guilty plea. The judge backdated Ryan's sentence to 24 October 2019 when he first went into custody.

McClean, the judge said, had played a "substantial role in the conspiracy to murder Mr Whelan". He noted that McClean previously had a business relationship with the victim and said his behaviour was particularly disappointing given his sporting background.

His eight-year sentence was backdated to 29 September 2020 when he went into custody.

Henderson and Crawford, the judge said, provided "significant logistical support" but were not close to the scene of the actual attempted murder.

Henderson has a history of regular employment despite a debilitating medical condition. Crawford, the judge said, was previously of good character. Henderson and Crawford entered bonds to be of good behaviour during the terms of their suspended sentences.

At a sentence hearing in July the court heard that Whelan previously ran a car sales business with McClean but it had ceased trading in 2016.

All four were originally charged with the attempted murder of Whelan and were due to stand trial together last June, but all entered pleas before the Central Criminal Court the previous month. The DPP accepted their pleas.

Whelan was shot a number of times in his body, head and arms while sitting in his car in the estate where he lived in Lucan.

The Clondalkin native was subsequently shot dead in a car two months later on November 18, 2019. The vehicle was then set on fire with his remains inside at Mount Andrew Rise in Lucan; his body was identified using DNA analysis.

Whelan, originally from Rowlagh in Clondalkin, was well known to the gardai for his involvement in serious and organised crime for more than two decades.

Detective Superintendent Mark O’Neill told the Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting at the sentence hearing, that Whelan had spent the morning of 4th Sept 2019 at his parents’ house, where he was described by his mother as being in good form.

He left to return to his own house, not far away, around lunchtime. As he drove into his estate, his path was blocked by a white Volkswagen Caddy van. A gunman alighted and fired 11 shots at Whelan as he sat in the driver’s seat. He was struck four times.

Cailean Crawford

Whelan managed to get out of his car and attract the attention of neighbours, one of whom brought him into their home. Whelan was described as panicking, said that he had been shot and sent for his wife.

Gardai arrived and found the hallway of Whelan’s neighbour’s house covered in blood.

Whelan told gardai that both the van’s driver and the passenger, who had shot him, were wearing balaclavas.

He was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, his clothes soaking in blood, and became weak when he tried to stand.

Gardai got him to lie on the floor while they awaited the arrival of paramedics, who took him to hospital.

Four bullet fragments were removed from his arms and chest wall.

A technical examination of the scene found 11 bullet holes in his windscreen, 11 discharged bullet cases and the bullet fragments from seven bullets.

The white Caddy was set alight a few minutes later and was examined by gardai. A badly fire-damaged handgun was recovered inside, along with the associated magazine and the remains of a silencer.

Another car was noticed on fire in Bray soon afterwards, with a third vehicle going up in flames in Kilcock that evening. Gardai saw a man move from the area of the 3rd burning car and jump into an Opel insignia, which they then followed and stopped shortly before Leixlip.

The four accused men were inside. A petrol can containing diesel oil was found in the boot, and all four were arrested on suspicion of arson.

Fingerprints found on the petrol can matched those of Cailean Crawford, while samples of firearms residue were found on Ryan’s clothing. Comparisons between this residue and the discharged cartridges found at the scene offered ‘extremely strong support’ for the view that Ryan had discharged the shots.

CCTV of the accused men’s movements was studied. This and other evidence showed that seven cars had been acquired in preparation for the shooting, six of which were registered in false names and addresses.

Mobile phone evidence from a fortnight before the shooting showed that Ryan had sent a text to his partner to say he’d “rather be home than doing homework on some boll*x”. He was staying in McClean’s house at the time.

Victim Wayne Whelan

A letter sent to McClean from Ryan in prison was also read into evidence.

“Everything is cool,” he wrote. “I’m a soldier mate and If I fall, I’ll fall alone… We’ll ride it out mate… Keep the head up. Your friend and brother, Wayne.”

The court heard that Ryan had 46  previous convictions, including for unlawful possession of a firearm, assault causing harm, robbery, possession of an article with intent to cause injury and burglary.

McClean had 16 previous convictions, including for the sale and supply of drugs, burglary and production of an article in a dispute.

He had known Whelan growing up.

Henderson had 14 less serious previous convictions. He had been running his own business as a courier at the time and his partner had given birth to a new-born baby since he went into custody.

Crawford had no previous convictions and had lived with his father and brothers at the time.

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