At his sentencing hearing at Dublin Circuit Court, evidence was given that Patrick Casey (35) fled the country after he managed to evade gardaí in the wake of a high-speed chase in March, 2014.
Dean Kelly SC, defending, told the court that his client was an underage hurler and footballer and played for the Dublin minors hurling team as a teenager, but that a drug habit ended his sporting career.
After he fled to the UK in the wake of the seizure in 2014, Casey weaned himself off drugs and started a new life, working full-time and becoming a father to two children.
Mr Kelly said Casey was in fear of a certain individual who was murdered in 2020 and that he then felt safe to return to Ireland. He was arrested in July 2021 and has been in custody since.
Sources have revealed that the major criminal that Casey was in fear of was Coolock gangster Robbie Lawlor, who was shot dead in Belfast in April, 2020.
Lawlor may have had “a financial interest” in the seized drugs which werecontrolled by the ‘Mr Big’ drugs gang.
He was shot dead in Belfast in April, 2020, less than three months after he was suspected of an active involvement in the murder of Drogheda teenager Keane Mulready Woods.
Lawlor who was also the chief suspect for a spate of gang murders in Dublin became heavily embroiled in the Drogheda feud and inflamed the dispute after his release from jail in December, 2019.
“A lot of people were afraid of Lawlor and with good cause. He was a very violent and unpredictable individual,” a source said.
“If Mr Casey felt he was under threat from him, it was a good move that he stayed out of the country while Lawlor was still around,” the source added.
It is understood that the former talented sportsman Casey became friendly with members of Mr Big’s organisation when he served three years in jail after he was caught with a large amount of cannabis resin.
Meanwhile, on Friday, defence counsel said prison had a “devastating” effect on Casey and he emerged from jail with a drug addiction.
After he fled to London, he went off drugs cold turkey and managed to turn his life around, the court heard.
Since his return to Ireland in 2020 he has been involved in his local GAA club, the court heard.
Sergeant James Muldowney gave evidence that just over €700,000 of cannabis and cocaine was found in Casey’s car, while just under €2m worth of the drugs was seized when gardaí raided his home in Raheny.
Sgt Muldowney told the sentence hearing that in 2014, gardaí were carrying out a drugs operation in the Coolock area and Casey was put under surveillance. On the day in question, he was observed putting black bags into the boot of his car and driving off.
When pursued by gardaí, Casey initially pulled over but then accelerated away from the scene. The chase ended when he crashed into a wall. Casey then fled the scene, managing to evade gardaí and he left the country.
Judge Martin Nolan said
although Casey fled the jurisdiction, he also rehabilitated himself while in London and started a new life. He handed down a sentence of nine years.