Under the gun: Paul Williams on the Hutch-Kinahan feud, one year on from the Regency shootings
The Regency Hotel shooting last year marked the start of a bloody war between two of the country's biggest organised crime gangs. But their respective godfathers - one a veteran criminal mastermind, the other a self-styled underworld toff - started off as the closest of allies
The chilling image of masked men, kitted out as a garda SWAT team and brandishing AK47 assault rifles, about to attempt multiple murders is probably the most effective exemplar of the well-worn idiom that "a picture is worth a thousand words".
However, this particular picture - snapped by a brave Irish Independent photographer and flashed across the world - tells a story that has generated countless thousands of words over the past year.
It has become the iconic image of modern-day gangland as it marks the prelude to one of the seminal events in the 40-year history of the phenomenon we call organised crime.
This was the moment that two of Ireland's most dangerous and feared criminal tribes went to war by staging one of the most audacious examples of narco-terrorism ever witnessed in this or indeed many other European states.
The attack was the brainchild of veteran criminal mastermind Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, who deliberately plotted a 'spectacular' with the intention of sending an unequivocal message to his one-time friend and business associate, Christy Kinahan, the multimillionaire international drug lord dubbed 'The Dapper Don'.
The Monk had two main motives: revenge for the murder of his nephew Gary Hutch; and to draw first blood after the Kinahans said they intended to wipe him out along with his entire family.
Gerry Hutch knew that they weren't bluffing.
A month earlier, on New Year's Eve, he narrowly escaped a murder bid in a Spanish pub when two Dublin hitmen were dispatched to assassinate him. Hutch had decided it was now a case of kill or be killed: he needed to demonstrate a ferocity that would leave his foes begging for peace.
That was clearly in the front of his mind when he mobilised a five-member hit team - three of whom were dressed as a garda SWAT team - to storm a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on a gloomy afternoon on February 5 last year.
The primary target was to be Daniel Kinahan, the Dapper Don's son and heir, and at least four of his closest lieutenants.
Kinahan had organised the weigh-in for a WBO European Lightweight title fight between Jamie Kavanagh vs Antonio Jao Bento, which was due to take place the following day.
But what was intended to be the Irish equivalent of the St Valentine's Day Massacre turned out to be a spectacular failure for Hutch when his killers got only one Kinahan gang member, David Byrne, who was shot dead. The others escaped.
As a result, the dramatic attack only served to unleash an unprecedented cycle of bloodletting and violence that has left nine men dead - including two completely innocent victims - and changed everything in the criminal underworld.
A NEW CHAPTER FOR IRISH UNDERWORLD
The Regency Hotel attack opened a new chapter in the story of the Irish underworld for which, one year later, there appears to be no end in sight.
It has been dubbed the Kinahan-Hutch feud, but that is a wholly inaccurate portrayal. 'Feud' suggests that both sides are in some way evenly matched. The reality is that Hutch and company bit off a lot more than they could chew, and have consequently paid a heavy price.
For this is a rout, an annihilation, a massacre of one family-based group by a much more pernicious mob with plenty of money, guns and killers.
So far, the body count has reached 11 men dead: the Kinahans killing 10 and the Hutches one.
About 18 months ago, it would have been considered madness to suggest that Gerry Hutch and Christy Kinahan - two underworld men of 'respect' - would become sworn enemies.
It would have been even more inconceivable to predict that Hutch would be forced to flee Dublin and go into hiding with a price-tag of anything up to €1m on his head.
The Kinahan cartel have offered the money to several international crime gangs with the expressed wish that they capture The Monk alive so that associates of David Byrne can "enjoy" torturing him to death.
But, according to sources close to the former gang boss, Hutch no longer fears death but is determined to "go out by bringing some of them with him".
He has paid a very heavy price for the spectacle he choreographed at the Regency Hotel.
He has now lost two nephews, Gary and Gareth Hutch; his brother Eddie and two of his closest friends, Noel 'Kingsize' Duggan and Noel 'Duck Egg' Kirwan.
There have also been attempts to murder several other family members and associates including two other brothers who are now receiving armed garda protection.
The carnage has also claimed the lives of Hutch ally and dissident Republican Michael Barr and gangster David 'Daithí' Douglas.
The Kinahan murder machine has also gunned down completely innocent men in cases of mistaken identity: Martin O'Rourke, shot dead on Sheriff Street, and Trevor O'Neill, who was gunned down in front of his family while on a holiday in Majorca last August.
Four of the victims were gunned down on the streets of the north inner-city and one in the south inner-city, instilling terror in the local communities and prompting Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin to denounce the killers and their bosses as "animals" who were "despicable and evil".
Even the most experienced and hard-bitten gardaí have openly expressed their utter amazement and shock at what has unfolded between the two gangland tribes.
So how did civil war break out between two godfathers who were thought to be too clever for such atavistic behaviour?
THE SINS OF THE YOUNGER HOODS
Up to 18 months ago, it would have been inconceivable to think that Gerry Hutch and Christy Kinahan would be trying to have each other murdered.
The two former friends and business associates were mafia-style men of 'respect' who no one would ever dare to contemplate crossing.
They both grew up in inner-city communities on either side of the River Liffey and were among the pathfinders who had ushered in a new era of organised crime since the early 1980s.
Kinahan was, in the words of Hutch himself, "nothing more than a f**kin' fraud man" when he originally set out on his criminal path.
But the Dapper Don educated himself and adopted the personae of a sophisticated underworld toff who can speak at least four languages.
In the mid-1980s, when heroin first established a toxic foothold in Dublin working-class communities, Kinahan made a conscious decision to cash in by becoming a drug dealer.
Despite serving a number of prison sentences in Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium, the Dapper Don built a world-class criminal drug empire over the last 20 years with a base in the Costa del Sol in southern Spain.
At the same time that Kinahan set off on his path to gangland success, Gerry Hutch, who is a few years younger, had a similar idea - only he had eschewed the sordid narcotics trade for a different type of crime: armed robbery.
In 1987, at the age of 24, he made his name in the underworld hierarchy after his crew robbed £1.3m (€1.6m) from a security van in Marino Mart on Dublin's north side.
The spectacular heist catapulted The Monk into the big league alongside the likes of John Gilligan, George 'The Penguin' Mitchell and Martin Cahill, the General.
Gardaí later traced some of the loot to a Newry bank account in Hutch's name which was frozen by the Belfast High Court.
But in the days before the Criminal Assets Bureau, the impudent blagger fought tooth and nail in the courts for the return of his ill-gotten cash, which the Belfast High Court later ruled was indeed the proceeds of the robbery and ordered its return to Securicor.
In 1995, Hutch and his crew again made it into the gangland history books when they pulled off the robbery of £2.8m (€3.5m) in a daring heist from a cash-holding facility in North County Dublin.
The money was later laundered through construction projects at the beginning of the country's building boom.
Despite several investigations and arrests, Gerry Hutch managed to escape prosecution - although he was forced to pay CAB over £1.2m (€1.5m) to satisfy a tax demand based on his criminal wealth.
Hutch and Kinahan became business associates and friends when The Monk became involved in the cannabis trade, although he managed to stay a safe distance from the actual business.
Hutch carefully nurtured the image of himself as a retired villain - an ordinary decent criminal mastermind who had left his wicked ways behind him.
He even convinced a judge that he was reformed enough to be awarded a taxi licence before setting up a company called 'cab' which specialised in stretched Humers.
Although he did not amass anything close to the fortune of Kinahan, Hutch remained a very wealthy gangster.
In 2008, he became a major target of police in the UK as part of an investigation into a major Birmingham-based organised crime gang involved in money laundering and extortion.
In fact, at the time, he was officially classified in secret UK police reports as a "threat to national security".
By that time, both Kinahan and Hutch were joined in their respective businesses by the younger generation. Kinahan's sons Daniel and Christopher Junior joined their dad, while the Monk's nephews became part of his organisation.
The younger hoodlums from both sides, and their associates, grew up together and represented the new generation of dangerous gangsters who emerged during the Noughties.
They were so closely associated that they effectively became what gardaí termed the same OCG - Organised Crime Grouping.
TIDE BEGAN TO CHANGE
Hutch and Kinahan remained the overlords of the two conjoined gangs and they both enjoyed prosperity and peace: but then the tide began to gradually change.
On February 26, 2009, the young mobsters loyal to the Monk, including his nephew Gary Hutch, did him proud by again making family history and setting a new robbery record.
This time they got away with €7.6m in cash from the Bank of Ireland in College Green in Dublin following a tiger kidnapping in which a bank employee was taken hostage along with his partner and her family.
And that is where the seeds of conflict were sown between the two powerful crime organisations.
According to an underworld source close to Hutch, who has been in regular contact with this reporter, Kinahan agreed to launder €2.5m of the loot for The Monk's nephew, Gary, who later moved to live in the Costa del Sol with the rest of the mob.
Kinahan had also agreed to launder a further €2m for another member of the Hutch gang, Darren O'Brien from North Strand in Dublin 1.
According to the underworld source, when O'Brien changed his mind, Daniel Kinahan "was fuming" and arranged one of his associates to tip off gardaí.
On February 27, the day after the huge heist, detectives arrested O'Brien (31) and Mark Donoghue (46) from Legan in Co Longford after they seized €1.7m of the robbery proceeds.
The two accomplices subsequently pleaded guilty. O'Brien was sentenced to seven years, with one year suspended, for handling the proceeds of the robbery, while Donoghue was given five years for money laundering.
None of the rest of the loot was ever recovered. Intelligence sources say that Gerry Hutch's associates in the UK helped to launder a large portion of the stolen cash.
Meanwhile, the relationship between Gary Hutch and Daniel Kinahan deteriorated after Hutch began putting pressure on Kinahan for his money, which was supposedly invested in property.
The sources say that Hutch accused Kinahan of ripping him off.
The situation came to a head in 2014, when Gary Hutch organised a hit on Daniel Kinahan at his home in Marbella. The would-be assassin shot and injured boxer Jamie Moore, who he mistook for Kinahan.
According to the Hutch gang source, efforts were made to reach a peaceful settlement in the potentially explosive dispute.
It was agreed that compensation would be paid to Moore for his injury while Kinahan then agreed to pay Gary Hutch an undisclosed sum - believed to be around €500,000.
Gerry Hutch monitored the negotiations and he was given an undertaking by Daniel Kinahan - which was backed up by his father Christy - that nothing would happen to Gary Hutch.
However, the underworld source told the Irish Independent that Kinahan was worried about Hutch, who was volatile.
In particular, the insider claimed that Hutch was aware that Kinahan and his closest henchmen had been responsible for the murder of a number of Dutch associates.
When one of his Dutch business partners was jailed for drug trafficking in Lebanon, Kinahan had his bag-man shot dead in Marbella in August 2013.
According to the same sources, the drug godfather then began doing business with the Dutch criminal's South American contacts. Gary Hutch also knew about how Kinahan and his associates stole 30kg of high-quality cocaine from another Dutch gang based in the Costa del Sol.
"Gary knew all this information and he knew lots of other information about lots of other killings and other rip offs that they (Kinahans) done... Daniel was afraid that Gary would spill the beans to the other lads (drug-dealing gangs) and he wasn't taking any chances… basically that is why Gary was killed," the source said.
Daniel Kinahan was more concerned about his Dutch rivals finding him out than he was about any agreement with Gerry Hutch.
In September 2015, a hitman gunned down Gary Hutch as he ran for his life through an apartment complex.
Two months later, two Hutch gang associates - David 'Daithí' Douglas and Darren Kearns - were suspected of shooting at Kinahan gang member Liam Roe outside the Red Cow Hotel in south Dublin.
A month later, on December 30, 2015, Kearns was shot dead in a pub car park on Blackhorse Avenue in north Dublin.
The motive for his murder was only established after the Regency Hotel outrage. (Douglas was also gunned down in the street by the Kinahans on July 1 last year.)
Attempt to broker a ceasefire
The Kinahans had tried to organise a "sit-down" with Gerry Hutch to agree a peace deal but The Monk refused, telling his associates that no one could trust them. He was proved correct.
The final straw came on New Year's Eve, a day after the Kearns murder, when two masked men walked into a pub in Lanzarote.
"They didn't see Gerard but he saw them. They had balis (balaclavas) on and each one had their hands inside their jackets holding guns," the source told the Irish Independent.
"They didn't see Gerard and he moved into the background but he knew they were looking for him."
Afterwards, the local police were called but by then the would-be killers had disappeared.
The underworld source said that Hutch conducted his own investigation after the incident on the island, where he has spent much of his time in recent years in his villa. CCTV footage at a number of local premises is understood to have captured the two Kinahan assassins a short time before they donned masks.
Hutch was able to identify the two hitmen, both of whom are in their late 20s, and from Cabra and the north inner-city, and had travelled to the island with their partners, ostensibly for a holiday.
The pair had been seen drinking on a number of occasions in the Irish pub frequented by Gerry Hutch and were wearing the same clothing they had worn during their earlier visits.
The Irish Independent passed the information and the identities of the two men to the gardaí last year. One of the men has since been charged with a murder offence, and is expected to be tried in the Special Criminal Court.
In the first days of 2016, Gerry Hutch and his mob began organising the Regency Hotel attack - and the rest is gangland history.
Garda sources say they want to question Hutch because they believe he was involved in the organisation of the Regency attack and was present in the area when it took place, although they do not believe he was one of the actual gunmen.
It is understood that they also obtained secret recordings of Hutch discussing the incident sometime later. As part of the investigation, gardaí were able to trace the movements of all the suspects involved in the crime as they were taken away from the scene in a number of taxis and private vehicles.
They have established that Hutch was dropped off in a taxi close to his home in Clontarf a short time after the actual incident.
But, for now, it is a race against time as to who gets to him first: the police or the Kinahans.
MURDER, MAYHEM AND MISTAKEN IDENTITY
September 24, 2015: Gary Hutch (above), nephew of The Monk, is chased and then shot several times beside a swimming pool in an apartment block in Marbella on Spain's Costa del Sol.
December 30, 2015: Darren Kearns (34) is shot dead in a pub car park on Blackhorse Avenue in north Dublin.
February 5, 2016: David Byrne (33), a violent drug dealer, is gunned down when the Regency Hotel is stormed by a five-man murder squad.
February 8, 2016: Eddie Hutch (58), brother of The Monk and uncle of Gary Hutch, gunned down when a four-man hit team break into his home in Poplar Row, Ballybough in the heart of the north inner-city.
March 23, 2016: Noel 'Kingsize' Duggan (58) gunned down by an assassin outside his home in Rathoath, Co Meath. He was a veteran criminal and lifelong associate, and best friend, of The Monk.
April, 14, 2016: Martin O'Rourke (24) is gunned down outside Noctor's Pub on Sheriff Street in The Monk's north inner-city heartland. He is a completely innocent man and the victim of mistaken identity.
April 25, 2016: Michael Barr (34, above), a member of a dissident Republican gang, is shot dead in the Sunset House Pub in the north inner-city where he worked as a barman.
May 24, 2016: Gareth Hutch (below), a nephew of The Monk and Eddie Hutch senior - and cousin of Gary Hutch, is executed by two hitmen in an apartment complex, again in the north inner-city neighbourhood.
July 1, 2016: David 'Daithí' Douglas (55) is gunned down outside his wife's shop on Bridgefoot Street in the south inner-city.
August 17, 2016: Council worker Trevor O'Neill is shot dead in the street in front of his wife and children on a holiday in Majorca. He is a completely innocent man and the victim of mistaken identity.
December 21, 2016: Noel 'Duck Egg' Kirwan, a close friend and confidant of The Monk, is shot dead outside his home in St Ronan's Drive in Clondalkin, south-west Dublin.