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Coke killer's brother died in gangland hit

Criminal who murdered pal during drug binge lost sibling in botched gun attack

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Attack: Mark Crawford was found guilty of murder

Attack: Mark Crawford was found guilty of murder

Stabbed to death: Pa O’Connor

Stabbed to death: Pa O’Connor

Mistaken identity: Paul Crawford (pictured) was the target in the attck that killed his brother Noel

Mistaken identity: Paul Crawford (pictured) was the target in the attck that killed his brother Noel

Noel Crawford

Noel Crawford

Shooting: The Noel Crawford murder scene

Shooting: The Noel Crawford murder scene

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Attack: Mark Crawford was found guilty of murder

A VETERAN criminal who was convicted of killing his pal during a two-day cocaine binge previously lost his own brother to a violent gangland-style murder.

A jury this week found Mark Crawford guilty of murder after a session with 24-year-old Pa O'Connor in a Limerick city pub came to a tragic and horrific end amid a spat over who had paid for cocaine.

The savage killing in July 2018 in which O'Connor suffered six stabs wounds, including to his neck and heart, shocked Limerick at the time.

But Crawford (46) and some members of his family are no strangers to crime and tragedy in Limerick city's lethal underworld.

His innocent brother Noel was shot dead on his 40th birthday at the family home at O'Malley Park in 2006. Noel was not involved in criminality and was killed in case of mistaken identity.

Mark's other brother Paul is a former mobster in the city then connected to the Dundon gang who is said to have since turned his back on crime.

He had been the real target of the assassin who had been heard to shout 'I got Paul Crawford' after shooting Noel dead.

Paul Crawford at one stage had been the subject of court order banning him from O'Malley Park where had had been suspected of running a drugs distribution network.

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Stabbed to death: Pa O’Connor

Stabbed to death: Pa O’Connor

Stabbed to death: Pa O’Connor

In another gun attack aimed at Paul Crawford in 2006 his then five-year-old nephew was shot and injured.

Mark has previously been convicted of drug-dealing and taking part in an assault on a woman in the city and claiming the dole while in prison.

And their sister Mary served a five-year sentence for smuggling five-kilos of cocaine worth €280,000 on the train from Dublin to Limerick in 2005.

Now Mark will be starting a life sentence for killing Pa O'Connor at Fitzgerald's Bar in July 2018.

During the trial the jury and the O'Connor family watched CCTV of the murder.

A barman told how he saw Crawford hit Pa O'Connor but had no idea what damage he'd done until after he'd fled the pub.

Cyril O'Connor said he heard the pair "arguing but in a whispered tone" just before the sudden attack.

"All I heard was a chair move, there wasn't a word, a shout or a scream. As I looked to the left I could see the accused striking Patrick in the neck area," he said.

He locked the door when Crawford left and only then saw blood "flowing" from the fatally injured man.

Another friend told how he had done cocaine with the pair in the toilets of the pub and "everything was great fun" when he left at 10pm and there had been no arguments.

Post-mortem details showed that Pa O'Connor suffered six stab wounds, including significant ones to his heart and the jugular vein in his neck.

A pathologist said the cause of death was haemorrhage or bleeding shock due to stab wounds to the thorax and neck.

It emerged in court that after Crawford left the bar he rang his wife, Karen, to come and get him.

She described how when she arrived her husband staggered down a lane towards her with blood dripping from his hands.

"I kept asking what happened and he said something bad. I couldn't get a clear answer off him so I was checking [him] for injuries," she added.

He then stayed with a sister and later in a hotel room in Nenagh to "get his head straight" before handing himself into the gardaí.

In Garda interviews Crawford said that a fight started because Pa O'Connor accused him of taking his cocaine.

"A fight started between us and he said I took his coke and I have to pay him a oner," Crawford told gardai.

He claimed he'd earlier been given a flick knife by a youth because he wasn't normally in that part of the city.

"I just took it out and stabbed him. I didn't realise what I'd done. We got up to fight over the coke. I thought I was going to get stabbed and beat up. I knew I'd done wrong."

"I didn't think I'd kill him. I did it more so he wouldn't come back on top of me. I thought he was going to kill me, beat me or stab me," he said.

The jury this week, however, didn't accept Crawford's explanation and found him guilty of murder.