| 14°C Dublin

LIFE OF VIOLENCE New book reveals shocking life of man authorities described as most ruthless Irish criminal ever

Dubliner Brendan Quinn was considered so dangerous that the Dutch prison service built a specially fortified cell to keep him locked up almost 24 hours a day


Brendan Quinn broke out of prison three times.

Brendan Quinn broke out of prison three times.

Brendan Quinn broke out of prison three times.

This is the Irish man described by Dutch authorities as the most ruthless Irish criminal to have ever walked on the country’s soil.

Dubliner Brendan Quinn not only masterminded numerous violent armed robberies, but successfully broke out of Holland’s maximum-security prisons multiple times.

He was considered so dangerous that the Dutch prison service built a specially fortified cell to keep him locked up almost 24 hours a day where he was banned from reading letters and even having a haircut.

The violent offender’s shocking life of crime has been laid bare in an extraordinary new book detailing his rise in the criminal underworld from Ireland right across Europe.

Irish Criminal: The True Story of Brendan Quinn delves into the now retired armed robber’s infamous past, from terrifying kidnappings, hold-ups and hijackings to multiple jailhouse escapes.

Born in Dublin in the early 1960s, the now 58-year-old started his lifelong crime spree as a young teen shooting cows in a field close to his family home.

By the time he’d reached his early twenties, Quinn had already committed serious crime, including armed robbery.

After claiming to be the victim of garda harassment, he moved across the water to Wembley, in London, where he carried out some debt collecting work on behalf of an acquaintance.


Brendan Quinn on the ground with accomplices after the supermarket theft.

Brendan Quinn on the ground with accomplices after the supermarket theft.

Brendan Quinn on the ground with accomplices after the supermarket theft.


It was during one of these jobs – which included a five figure sum reward – that the young Irishman found himself accused of carrying out a brutal gunpoint raid on the north London home of a rich businessman.

The wealthy South American’s wife and children were tied up in the terrifying raid which saw £80,000 in jewellery grabbed by vicious robbers.

Within hours of the 1988 heist, Quinn and a pal were arrested, charged and banged up on remand in Brixton prison.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

After being moved to the more secure Pentonville unit, he and three others helped stage one of the most daring jail breakouts the UK had seen.

According to the book, written by crime author Steve Wraith, the escape kickstarted Quinn’s lust for defiance against the system.

After obtaining fake ID and moving around the UK and Ireland, he set off for Portugal before settling in Holland, intent on carrying on his life of crime while on the run.

On April 2, 1991, Quinn and his brother Tony burst into the reception of Hotel Astoria in Amsterdam where they threatened a female worker with a gun before making off with thousands of guilders and gold coins.

Within days they planned and carried out another terrifying armed raid, this time on the Albert Heijn supermarket in the heart of the Dutch capital.

After holding staff at gunpoint, the brothers robbed a safe before making off with a stash of cash.

But their luck was to run out the next day.

After planning to leave Amsterdam and travel around Europe on high-powered motorbikes splashing their cash, the brothers made the mistake of meeting for a meal close to the scene of the robbery – with their robbery stash.

They met a female friend for lunch and left a city centre restaurant where it soon became clear they were being tailed by police.

It led to the brothers taking over a tram and holding passengers hostage and the driver at gunpoint.

The book details: “They were being surrounded. Brendan couldn’t believe it. All the effort he put in to avoid things exactly like this. For four years they’d been extremely careful not to get into trouble. He’d always made sure everything was meticulously planned with a plan B always in place.

“Just one day before they’d dumped their cars, with the intention of never coming back to Amsterdam. And now here they were, being surrounded on a f****** tram, in downtown Amsterdam. He never should have gone to that restaurant.

“The police seemed to be everywhere. Tony looked towards Brendan and mouthed the word ‘sorry’. ‘What’s happened?’ Tony answered: ‘I dropped into the Irish couple. I wanted to thank them for their hospitality and give them some money’. It was the most naïve thing he could have done. Less than 24 hours after the armed robbery Tony had visited the former safe house, just around the corner of Albert Heijn.”

On October 14, 1991 both brothers were convicted of the hotel and supermarket armed robberies, and the holding up and hijacking of the tram.

They were sentenced to eight years each and sent to separate prisons.

Just three months later, Brendan went on to carry out yet another daring prison escape from De Geerhorst jail in Sittard.

Along with the help of a Colombian cartel member, the pair had planned to fly a helicopter into the maximum security prison ground and escape.


The new book.

The new book.

The new book.


But the plan fell through after the Colombian’s pilot was arrested over a separate crime.

Refusing to give up, Brendan had organised yet another breakout plot – by having criminal contacts on the outside throw aluminium ladders over the prison walls.

The book records a series of newspaper reports from the time:  “From the penitentiary for long-serving prisoners in Sittard, De Geerhorst, two heavy criminals escaped last night.

“The fugitives are a 28-year-old Irishman and a 40-year-old Colombian. Both are considered armed and dangerous. Around 8pm the two men got assistance from the outside, when five armed men climbed over the wall using a ladder. Three of them were arrested, but the two others managed to escape. The police raised the alarm and searched the area without any positive result.

“It’s not clear how long the helpers were busy putting the ladders in place, because no one witnessed them. Immediately after the escape the prison’s sports instructor activated the alarm. The police arrived quickly enough to arrest three men who are suspected of assisting. They are

Antilleans who remained silent during the interrogation by the police.”

Instead of fleeing the country like his Colombian pal, Brendan stayed in Holland intent on breaking his brother Tony out of prison.

To help with funds, he plotted yet another armed supermarket robbery.

On April 21, 1992, just three months after his second prison escape, Quinn along with two other criminals held up the C1000 store with guns.

The robbery went wrong after a member of staff who had called to the store to start their shift noticed one of the armed men inside as the hold-up was taking place.

Within minutes the place was surrounded with armed cops and Quinn, leading negotiations, took a number of staff hostage and demanded a helicopter be landed on the roof of the huge supermarket.

His demands failed and the three criminals were taken down by detectives.

Pictures in the book show Quinn, who bleached his hair after breaking out of prison to appear more Dutch, cuffed on the ground before being taken away in an armoured vehicle with a hood over his head.

By this stage, the Dutch authorities considered Quinn not only extremely dangerous on the outside, but also while he was locked up.

While plans were in place to move the young prisoner to a more secure jail which would prevent further escape bids, Quinn had already masterminded yet another breakout.

While banged up in De Schie jail, Quinn, along with a number of inmate accomplices, held a knife to the throat of a guard and broke out of the prison waiting room.

They sped off in warder’s car after demanding his keys.

On September 4, 1992 De Telegraaf newspaper reported: “Four extremely armed and dangerous criminals have escaped from the special secured unit of the Rotterdam prison De Schie yesterday.


Tony Quinn

Tony Quinn

Tony Quinn


“The umpteenth getaway this year has caused even more indignation because the brain behind the escape, the 29-year-old Irish professional criminal Brendan Q., was only last Monday convicted to 10 years imprisonment.

“The escape took place after a taking of hostages. Three guards literally had a knife put to their throat.

“The Amsterdam court sentenced the unscrupulous Brendan Q. last Monday due to his part in the

sensational armed robbery and hostage taking of the work force of the C1000-supermarket, last spring in Amsterdam.

“The State Secretary of Justice Mr Kosto will take extra security measures at prisons. ‘If necessary, we must reduce the rights of prisoners to a safe minimum, if this enables us to keep the people inside’.

“The Irishman Brendan also escaped on the 13th of January from a jail for long-term prisoners in Sittard.

“In England Brendan Q. partly evaded an imprisonment of four years by escaping there as well. The hunt of the police for the four fugitives is focussed on Amsterdam, because two of the criminals — the Irishman Brendan Q. and the Dutchman M.C. — have good contacts in the capital city.”

In an unusual move due to the country’s strict privacy laws, the Ministry of Justice released pictures of the fugitives to the media.

“The privacy of these people doesn’t balance the social danger they provide,” a justice spokesperson told the media at the time.

False information linking Quinn and his family to the IRA also appeared in the press.

Due to the public pressure, his third time on the run was to be short lived.

He was arrested at a safe house after a tip off to police and was back in his cell within a week.

Quinn posed such a risk inside prison that he was placed in 24-hour lockdown where he was refused contact with the outside world. The prison service also built a steel fortified cell to hold him in.

He was eventually moved to a brand new Dutch ‘Alcatraz’ set up specifically to house “uncontrollable” prisoners.

Although he plotted and planned further escape attempts, he served his time, with the book stating he was now a “normal law abiding citizen”.

It’s believed the Dubliner now lives a quiet and crime free life in the UK.

  • Irish Criminal: The True Story of Brendan Quinn by Steve Wraith is available for download and paperback purchase on Amazon.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices