'Extreme violence' | 

How garda's son and killer of Philip Finnegan became one of Ireland's most dangerous criminals

Stephen Penrose, yesterday convicted of the gruesome murder of Philip Finnegan, has previously been jailed for manslaughter
Stephen Penrose

Stephen Penrose

Ken Foy

CONVICTED double killer Stephen Penrose (38) is classified as one of the most dangerous gangland criminals in the country.

"Put simply this individual is bad to the bone and there is absolutely no doubt that prison is the only place he should be. He can snap in the space of just a second and has a propensity for extreme violence," a source said yesterday.

The son of a respected retired garda, Penrose's conviction yesterday for the gruesome murder of criminal Philip Finnegan is the second time he has been convicted of a brutal killing linked to the drugs trade.

In July 2010, he was jailed for nine years for the May, 2009, manslaughter of David Sharkey, who was stabbed 13 times in a stairwell while delivering heroin to an apartment in Navan, Co Meath.

Gardaí believe the murder of Philip Finnegan in August, 2016, was ordered by the victim's former associates in the Rattigan gang from behind the bars of Portlaoise Prison.

Gardaí have been working on the theory that the origin of the murder is a bitter cash argument that Finnegan got into with gang boss Brian Rattigan, which led to Rattigan's mob deciding the 24-year-old had to be killed.

It is suspected that a Drimnagh criminal, who is considered Rattigan's right-hand man and has convictions for firearms and robbery offences, was tasked with "organising" the brutal murder.

Sources say it is believed that this gangster then enlisted Penrose, who knew Finnegan.

Philip Finnegan

Philip Finnegan

At one stage during Penrose's murder trial, Penrose, who was representing himself at the time, mentioned in the absence of the jury that he was going to look for witness orders for Brian Rattigan but he never proceeded with the application.

Convicted gangland killer Rattigan is understood to be currently based in Spain after his release from Portlaoise Prison last summer.

In the months following Finnegan's murder and Penrose's eventual arrest in November, 2016, Penrose was involved in a number of violent incidents.

Despite a horrific criminal legacy, Penrose's father Paul Penrose is a "highly respected" former garda who joined the gardaí as a mechanic in the early 1980s and later worked as a driver in Transport Details in HQ in the Phoenix Park.

Paul Penrose gave evidence in both of his son's murder trials.

In the David Sharkey case, in which Stephen was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter, Paul Penrose told the court his son rang him asking for a lift on the night of the killing.

He described his son as having a "very serious" substance abuse problem at the time of the killing.

More than 11 years later and in the Finnegan case, Paul Penrose gave evidence that his son Stephen and his friend, Philip Finnegan, had been chatting away in his car "as if they knew each other all their lives", just two days before Finnegan was killed.

"Philip was a very nice fella, very friendly, they were chatting away as if they knew each other all their lives," Mr Penrose said.

Finnegan was also a serious gangland criminal who was involved in a number of bitter gang feuds in the capital's south inner city and had been cleared of firearms charges at Dublin Circuit Court the year before he was murdered.

"Whatever about Finnegan's criminal pedigree, he certainly did not deserve to die in the barbaric fashion that he did," a source said.

Since being locked up on remand in relation to the Finnegan murder, Penrose has had a number of serious disciplinary issues and gardaí have investigated allegations that he exposed himself by "flashing his private parts" at female prison officers in an alleged incident in 2017.

He is currently based in Mountjoy Prison and a jail source described him as "a highly disruptive prisoner who regularly threatens members of the staff".

Jail sources previously revealed Penrose had a "poor disciplinary record" while serving his sentence for the manslaughter offence and was regularly moved from prison to prison across the country while doing his time.

He had been given more than 30 'P-19' prison reports for breaches of discipline, which included threatening staff and other inmates, possession of weapons and other prohibited items as well as fighting and being verbally abusive during his first significant stretch in jail.

"He has always been a disturbed, reckless and violent criminal," a source said.

Evidence of this was seen in April, 2016, when Penrose, who had only been released from jail two months previously for the Sharkey manslaughter, was arrested in relation to a reckless gun attack in Dunboyne, Co Meath, in which shots were fired at a house in the Woodview Heights estate.

After the gun attack, Penrose and a female companion fled to a house in Broadford, Co Kildare where a fire was deliberately started in the property.

Gardaí were alerted to the fire and arrived at the house to discover the killer and his female pal suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation injuries.

However after being discharged from hospital, Penrose was immediately arrested because 19 rounds of ammunition and two shotguns were found at the scene of the fire.

He was later sentenced to three years in prison with the final two years suspended for this offence in March, 2017.

While this may have been a chaotic and confusing incident, senior sources say the way Penrose treated his so-called friend Philip Finnegan displays the "absolute savage nature" of the notorious criminal.

After luring him to his gruesome death in Rahin Woods near Edenderry on August 10, 2016, Penrose engaged in a fatal stabbing frenzy on his associate which even led to him stabbing himself before chopping Finnegan's head off and later making attempts to cut up his body and burn it before his victim was dumped in a shallow grave.

That the criminal was capable of such diabolical activity came as no surprise to garda investigators from Navan and Finglas, who had investigated him for the brutal killing of David Sharkey on the evening of May 17, 2009.

In the course of that crime, Penrose stabbed Sharkey 13 times with an 18cm blade which went through the victim's shoulder blade and also penetrated his heart, stomach and liver.

Afterwards, Penrose cleaned up the scene, put the body in the boot of the dead man's BMW with the help of a female companion and drove to Dunsink Lane in Finglas, Dublin, where he planned to burn everything.

However, he was followed by gardaí who happened to be on patrol in the lane and he ended up abandoning the car in a halting site before fleeing the scene.

Penrose told the jury at the Central Criminal Court in May, 2010, that he had only planned to steal heroin from Mr Sharkey, as he had become addicted to the drug after the death of his baby girl.

He said the plan went wrong when Mr Sharkey produced a knife and demanded his drugs back.

"There can be little doubt that Penrose is one of the most violent criminals operating in Ireland and today's conviction is a great result," a source added.

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