Attempted hit | 

Mob boss Christy Keane fortunate nurse was passing by on day he was shot

A nurse who was out for a run nearby was able to give him medical assistance in the aftermath of the attempted ‘hit’

Christy Keane

Limerick crime boss Christy Keane

Alison O’RiordanSunday World

Convicted drug dealer Christy Keane was fortunate on the day he was shot multiple times by two McCarthy-Ryan gunmen, as a nurse who was out for a run nearby was able to give him medical assistance in the aftermath, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

The non-jury court also heard yesterday that it took over five years for the matter to reach court because a garda involved in the case was prosecuted in a "completely unrelated event where it was alleged there was a corrupt transaction".

Limerick man John Costello only "went along with" providing transport to the two members of the McCarthy-Ryan crime gang who shot crime figure Keane when he was directed to do so by the person who ordered "the hit", his defence lawyers told a sentencing hearing today.

The court heard during today’s sentence hearing of Costello that Keane had just parked his jeep on the grounds of the University of Limerick to go for an early-morning gym session in June 2015 when 13 rounds were discharged into it.

Convicted drug dealer Keane was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2000 for possession of €240,000 worth of cannabis.

Last year at the Special Criminal Court, John Costello (41) of Hennessy Avenue, Kileely, Limerick City, pleaded guilty to providing transport to persons allegedly involved in an assault causing serious harm to Keane on 29 June, 2015.

Limerick crime boss Christy Keane

He had pleaded guilty to knowing or believing another person or persons to be guilty of an arrestable offence, to wit assault causing serious harm to Christy Keane, and did without reasonable excuse provide transport to said persons to impede their apprehension or prosecution for the commission of that offence, contrary to Section 7 (2) of the Criminal Law Act 1997.

At today’s sentence hearing Detective Sergeant Padraig O'Dwyer, from Henry Street Garda Station, told prosecuting counsel John Byrne SC that the genesis of the matter had derived from the "infamous Limerick feud" where the main protagonists of the McCarthy-Dundon criminal organisation had "morphed" into the McCarthy-Ryan gang, which he called a "sophisticated enterprise".

At this point, Michael O'Higgins SC, defending Costello, said his client's involvement had only occurred post this event and he was not involved in the event itself.

Mr Byrne said the feud dated back to 1993 and in the intervening period there had been 19 murders and 15 attempted murders. Det Sgt O'Dwyer said Christy Keane had long been a target for the McCarthy-Ryan organised crime group.

Outlining the events from June 29 2015, Mr Byrne said that Keane had driven his Nissan jeep to University of Limerick arena car park at 6.30am that morning. Keane would have regularly attended the gym inside the sports complex at the rear of the building in the early mornings, the court heard.

Mr Byrne said almost simultaneously a red Ford Focus appeared in the car park, where two gunmen approached the Nissan jeep and discharged 13 rounds into it.

A technical examination was done of the scene and it found that eight shots had been discharged from a Glock pistol and five shots from a Luger semi-automatic pistol. Keane was hit a number of times by the bullets and tried to make his escape as the gunmen fled back to the Ford Focus.

Keane was fortunate as a nurse, who was going for a run, was present at the complex. She observed what had occurred and rendered medical assistance at the scene to the victim. Keane, who was taken to hospital, had been hit a total of four times; three times to his upper arm and once to his wrist.

They were non life-threatening injuries, said Mr Byrne, and one bullet wound had gone through his lower back which punctured a lung. The injuries constituted serious harm.

The red Ford Focus left the scene and was discovered burned out at Newtown in Annacotty in Limerick. The Luger semi-automatic pistol and the Glock pistol were located inside the car.

Mr Byrne said the investigation found that the two shooters had left the red Ford Focus at Annacotty and departed in a white Volvo estate car. The two shooters went to Drombanna in Limerick and the Volvo was burnt out at that location. The court heard that as the Volvo was driving to Drombanna a black BMW, which was linked to the person who ordered or conducted "the hit" on Keane, had also driven to that location.

CCTV footage established that the driver of the BMW had collected the two shooters at Drumbanna and the vehicle was observed driving at speed in Ballynanty village. The two shooters were abandoned by the driver of the BMW car in a rural location just outside Limerick city. The BMW then made its way into Limerick city and it was at this point that the accused Costello became involved, said Mr Byrne.

Costello became a person of interest to the investigation on June 29 and indicated to gardai that he left his home in Limerick city centre at 8.15am that morning and went to his girlfriend's house, where he collected his Audi A4 car.

A handwritten list of phone numbers was located during the search of the defendant's house. The investigation, counsel said, established that Costello had received seven calls between 7.06am and 9.03am that morning and that his phone was linked to one of the two shooters in the case.

Counsel said the defendant's phone was operating in the vicinity of Ballynanty at the time. He had received a call from the person who had ordered "the hit' on Keane in the immediate aftermath of the shooting at 7.16am, when the two shooters were abandoned by the driver.

During interviews Costello denied any involvement in the events of June 29 but as the interview progressed he was more forthcoming. The defendant's phone was seized in July 2015 and he was arrested.

Costello told gardai he went to Ballynanty that morning, admitted he collected two males at the village but wasn't in a position to name them. The defendant told officers he had received a call from one of the shooters in Ballynanty looking to be picked up but he refused to do that. "He then got a call from another person, who is believed to be the person who directed or ordered the hit and Costello was told to go to Ballynanty. Having initially refused to do so he was directed by this individual to go there," added the barrister.

Mr Byrne said Costello had accepted at the time that he went to collect the two males and was aware of their involvement in the shooting of Christy Keane. The movements of the defendant's car were captured going to Ballynanty and gardai believed he had dropped the two shooters back into Limerick city centre.

The court heard that Costello has 13 previous convictions but the only one of note related to a section 15a offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act in 2004. The drug was amphetamine and he received a sentence of 12 years imprisonment.

Christy Keane declined the opportunity to offer a victim impact statement, the court was told.

Under cross-examination, Det Sgt O'Dwyer agreed with defence counsel Michael O'Higgins SC, that it was not alleged his client had any act or part of the shooting. Counsel said Costello's first involvement was when he got a call from the persons believed to have partaken in the event and that the defendant had refused to go. "What was an organised event became a disorganised event," said the lawyer.

Mr O'Higgins said his client was then directed to go, asking the witness if the second refusal would have been regarded as a provocative act. Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, interjected and asked Det Sgt O'Dwyer if it would have been wiser for the defendant to have comply with the direction. The witness said "yes".

The witness agreed with the barrister that the case only came before the court in July 2020 and the reason that the matter had not come on for trial before this was because a garda who had involvement in this case was prosecuted in a "completely unrelated event where it was alleged there was a corrupt transaction".

The detective also agreed it had been a valuable plea as the case was stuck "on this log jam". The court heard there are two others currently before the court in relation to this incident.

Mr O'Higgins asked the court to take into account that his client wasn't involved in the "main event" or the planning of it. He said Costello "came in at the end, initially refused, then went along with it". "The second refusal would have been very difficult, the fact he did refuse in the first instant is a factor that goes towards his significant credit," he added.

Counsel said that mitigating factors were his client’s early plea and that there had been a long delay of five years before this case was brought to court. "It has been hanging over him for a very long time," he continued.

Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Alan Mitchell, remanded Costello in custody until May 19, when he will be sentenced.

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