Gardai still baffled by gangland hit of Good Samaritan
Published 10/09/2011 | 05:00
Last Saturday night Tom McDonagh became the latest victim of a gangland-style 'hit'.
The Traveller died as a burst of automatic gunfire riddled his mobile home at St Margaret's halting site in Ballymun on the northside of Dublin.
The attack bore all the hallmarks of a criminal underworld assassination.
But unlike other similar shootings in the capital and elsewhere in the State, garda investigators are not confident of the identity of his killers or why he was gunned down.
It had been assumed from the nature of the shooting that Mr McDonagh (49) had fallen foul of a criminal gang and probably owed them cash, maybe a drugs debt.
But one week on, gardai admit they have made little progress in solving the mystery.
There are plenty of theories and possible lines of inquiry, linking the incident into previous shootings involving Travellers and connecting it to organised crime gangs operating in Finglas, and the west Dublin area generally.
But officers acknowledge they have no firm evidence to support any of the speculation.
Mr McDonagh had come to the attention of local gardai in the past but only in connection with minor crimes.
He was not a major player on the crime scene and did not show up on the radar of the Garda National Drugs Unit or local squads.
In the area surrounding the site at St Margaret's Road, most residents agreed that Mr McDonagh was a quiet, unassuming man.
Few wished to speak publicly when asked about their feelings on the murder. "It's usually very quiet around here but there are gangs and there's intimidation," one woman said.
"But if you keep your head down, you're all right."
One man who was prepared to speak out was Mr McDonagh's second cousin John McDonagh, from Carton Way, beside the halting site.
"He was well-known in the community, he was a nice bloke and everyone liked him.
"They way they went in and attacked him was very vicious. It was a cruel attack, you wouldn't wish it on anyone," he said.
Mr McDonagh played GAA in his younger years, and was a religious man who often dropped into nearby St Joseph's Church, he added.
His cousin painted a picture of a Good Samaritan. "He helped everyone. He was harmless, a quiet man who kept to himself.
"If you were stuck for a few quid, he'd help you. If you needed something fixed up in your house, he'd come up and fix it for you."
Asked if Mr McDonagh had been involved in drugs, he said: "You wouldn't know. I don't know what it happened over but I wouldn't wish it on anyone."
Local gardai say they have built up a good relationship with the community around the halting site.
"This has been an area where we have encountered very few problems in the past and we keep in touch with the people living there," one officer said.
But the events of last Saturday remain puzzling. If Mr McDonagh was living a double life, then it was unknown to his neighbours.
He was alone in his mobile home around 9.50pm last Saturday night when two men pulled into a parking bay alongside in a dark-coloured Nissan Qashqai car.
One of the killers ran up to the front door and opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol. More than a dozen shots were fired into the mobile, hitting Mr McDonagh in the body as he was about to walk to the door.
He slumped to the ground in a pool of blood while the Qashqai sped out of the site and along St Margaret's Road where they abandoned and set the car on fire in the Mayeston Lawn apartment complex.
The gunmen then jumped through bushes, scaled a fence and made their way on to the exit road leading on to the southbound lane of the M50 motorway, where they were collected in another vehicle.
Last night, gardai renewed their appeal to witnesses who might have seen the gunmen either at the mobile home, or setting fire to the car at Mayeston, or being collected beside the M50 at about 10pm.
Detectives continued to trawl through CCTV footage taken from cameras in the area and examine statements from residents yesterday evening as the removal of Mr McDonagh's remains to St Joseph's Church in Ballymun took place.
He was due to be buried early today at Dardistown Cemetery following Mass at St Joseph's.
Among the theories being pursued are a possible link between the incident and an ambush at the River Road in Finglas in July last year when Anthony 'Mole' McDonagh narrowly escaped death after he stopped his white Ford van at what he thought were county council roadworks.
Gardai are also looking back at files on the feuds between Travellers and organised crime gangs that resulted in the murders of brothers, John Paul and Tommy Joyce, who had operated a huge drug-trafficking racket from their base at Grove Lane, Malahide Road in Coolock.
But at the moment there is nothing to suggest a link between the Joyces and Tom McDonagh.
As one experienced garda officer said : "Tommy Joyce and Tom McDonagh were as different as chalk and cheese."