Gilligan flees country after his driver is gunned down
Gangster in wheelchair takes ferry after midnight hospital discharge
WOUNDED gangster John Gilligan left hospital last night under armed garda escort and promptly left the country.
The veteran drug dealer was discharged from James Connolly Memorial Hospital at around midnight last night – two weeks after he survived a gun attack when he was shot four times.
Just over 24 hours after his "minder" Stephen 'Dougie' Moran was murdered in west Dublin, the 61-year-old was pushed out of the hospital in a wheelchair by a female member of staff.
Clutching a Dunnes Stores bag containing his belongings, the once-feared gang boss was escorted to a waiting car by a garda.
He was dressed in a black jacket and tracksuit bottoms and was wearing flat black cap. There was visible bruising on his face where one bullet had grazed his head during the attempt on his life.
He also appeared to have lost a considerable amount of weight.
Gilligan was collected in a black C class Mercedes with a '131' registration plate before being driven off to the ferry terminal at North Wall, where he was booked on the 2.15am Stena sailing to Holyhead.
Armed gardai shadowed Gilligan's car to ensure that another attempt was not made on his life.
Sources said that details of the crime boss's departure from hospital had been kept "under wraps" to ensure that he wasn't targeted again.
The Irish Independent understands that Gilligan, who suffered a broken leg in the gun attack two weeks ago, refused to tell gardai that he was planning to leave the country.
"He had been discussing his discharge from hospital with the gardai since Friday and he was very concerned that the media weren't there to photograph him in the wheelchair," said a source.
"But he was very rattled when he heard about the murder of Dougie Moran on Saturday evening and decided that he was going to leave the hospital under cover of darkness."
It is not known where Gilligan was planning to go after his expected arrival in Holyhead this morning.
The drug trafficker, who is believed to have ordered the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin in 1996, had made a good recovery from his wounds.
It has emerged that a reported bullet wound to his bowel was not serious.
His most serious injury was sustained when one of the four bullets to hit him shattered one of the bones in his leg.
Gilligan also suffered a gash over one of his eyes, which was caused when a bullet grazed his head.
His departure comes less than 48 hours after Moran's murder.
Known as a major underworld 'fixer', Moran was shot a number of times at his highly fortified home in Lucan, west Dublin, at 7.30pm on Saturday.
He was rushed to Tallaght Hospital but died from his injuries.
Gardai believe that whoever shot him dead are also the same criminals who have attempted to murder Gilligan on two separate occasions.
Investigators described Saturday night's murder as "extremely well planned and professional".
"The gunman had a window of opportunity that was just five seconds between the time that Moran got out of his bullet-proof vehicle and went into his bullet-proof house," a source said. "He was hit a number of times at close range and never stood a chance.
"What seems to be happening here is that a criminal gang have decided to wipe out John Gilligan and the few remaining pals he has in the criminal underworld."
Moran – who was a major target for the Criminal Assets Bureau – had been driving Gilligan around in a bullet-proof 4x4.
"The strongest line in this investigation is that the crew who want Gilligan dead simply decided to take out Moran because he has been seen with him so much since Gilligan got out of jail last October," investigators said.
However, they are also refusing to rule out other theories because of his links to other criminals across the country.
Moran was drinking with Gilligan in the Hole In The Wall pub on the capital's northside when a gunman ran into the nearby Halfway House pub in Castleknock last December looking for the convicted drug dealer. Moran would also drive Gilligan to court appearances in his bullet-proof BMW 4X4.
Sources said the two criminals were also spotted in each other's company on the day Gilligan was shot four times at his brother's house in Greenfort Crescent – exactly a fortnight before Moran was shot dead.
Despite being a major player in organised crime, Moran, a settled traveller described as "very clever" and "highly dangerous", only had two previous criminal convictions on record.