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Gangsters' molls with most to lose as crime lord husbands face sentencing this week

One couple claimed they had made their money importing Japanese cars

Joanne Byrne, wife of Thomas "Bomber" Kavanagh in blue jacket and Nicola Vickery, wife of Gary Vickery, in black coat in foreground. Pic by MCNpics

Nicola Tallant

They are the two women with the most to lose with their crime lord husbands listed numbers One and Two in an enormous drugs importation ring facing sentence this week.

Joanne Byrne and Nicola Connor have lived a life of privilege in huge houses, private holiday villas and even a luxury boat used in a James Bond movie.

If ever they wondered where it had all come from, and if their partners, Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh and Gary Vickery, had convinced them that they had made their millions flogging second-hand cars, they could no longer be under any illusion of what had feathered their nests.

Twenty-three shipments of drugs, one of which contained more than £3 million (€3.6 million) worth of cocaine and cannabis brought in from Europe, is what the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) believe was the real source of their wealth.

Gary Vickery

A complex import-export system - which involved the drugs being smuggled inside specially-enhanced machinery - was laid bare at Ipswich Crown Court as the women and their off-spring watched on from the public gallery.

Details of the enormous money, vast quantities of cocaine and cannabis and the intricate set-up of shadow businesses, painted a picture of a highly sophisticated crime gang headed up, the court was told, by Kavanagh with Vickery as his second in command.

Flanked by their children, the first and second wives sat proudly in support of their husbands in the court as they face massive prison terms.

Both arrived neatly groomed and sat together outside Court Two as they prepared for the long-awaited sentence hearing for the duo and co-accused, Daniel Canning.

Joanne Byrne, wife of Thomas "Bomber" Kavanagh. Pic by MCNpics

All three will learn their fate tomorrow, with a proceeds of crime investigation sure to follow as the lifestyles of the Kavanagh and Vickery families come under the microscope.

Nicola Connor, wife of Gary Vickery. Pic by MCNpics

There are holiday homes, investment properties, cars, jewellery and plenty more for the police to wade through with a fine-tooth comb.

Joanne Byrne, a sister of Liam and David Byrne - whose assassination at the Regency Hotel sparked a backlash of murder in Dublin - married 'Bomber' when he was just starting out in the drugs game back home.

The pair left Ireland after the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) took their modest Drimnagh home in one of the first cases after its formation in 1996.

Together, they moved to Birmingham, first to White Sands Road, and later to Tamworth, where they raised their family in a huge gated mansion complete with his-and-hers Range Rovers in the drive.

Holidays were spent in Mexico, Dubai and in their summer home in Majorca, where they partied with Bomber's associates from Dublin.

Joanne spent her 40th birthday in Las Vegas with a huge group of girl pals, whose holiday was first class all the way and paid for by 'Bomber'.

Nicola, too, knows how to enjoy money. She has been living in a huge villa in Lanzarote complete with a pool and runs a holiday rental business of properties, which will now be probed for their ownership.

The home of Thomas 'Bomber' Kavanagh and his wife Joanne Byrne in Tamworth, near Birmingham

At one point, she and Gary boasted that they had a collection of luxury boats - including a Sunseeker Quantum.

The couple were regulars around the exclusive harbour area of Puerto Calera, where they enjoyed whiling away their afternoons with yachting types, saying they had made their fortune importing second-hand Japanese cars into Ireland.

Like Joanne and 'Bomber', Gary and Nicola drove luxury cars - a BMW X5 and a Range Rover. He often told people that he was Bomber's best friend, while his wife was very close with Joanne and the pair regularly socialised together.

Indeed, one of the texts taken from phones seized from Vickery during the NCA investigation was a message about 'Bomber'. "Hey, I'v 1 and ¼ vodkas gonna finish them soon and jump in a taxi - havin a good needed chat with gaffer, love you.'

The court was told that on November 10, 2016, Vickery was identified as being in New York from messages he sent to his wife.

That day he sent her a photograph of a group of men, which included himself and Kavanagh.

The court heard that they were gathering in an apparent celebration, with the message: "Ha ha, this is worth the money."

He then sent a further message saying that Vickery's brother had been told by the 'gaffer' to 'calm down'.

During a meeting held at the Hyatt Hotel, in Birmingham, in December of that year, a reservation was made by Vickery's wife.

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