'It was like a war zone' - armed gardai swoop on gangster Paul Zambra
Published 30/05/2015 | 08:33
Notorious criminal Paul Zambra has been arrested on his way to carry out a suspected gangland hit.
A BMW driven by Zambra in Clonshaugh Avenue on Dublin's northside was rammed off the road by a garda vehicle at lunchtime yesterday.
Armed detectives surrounded the car, weapons drawn and shouting at the occupants to get out.
"It was like something out of a warzone. I've never seen anything like it. There were guns everywhere," one witness told the Herald.
Two loaded handguns were found in the BMW, and Zambra was arrested by officers from the Emergency Response Unit (ERU).
Sources believe the target of the hit was Dubliner Dean Russell (44), the brother of Anthony Russell who was shot dead in an Artane pub in 2008.
The heavily armed ERU were joined by members of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, with up to 10 different garda units employed in the operation.
"It was all very quiet, like it normally is on the road, when all hell broke lose," another witness said.
"This car was driving up the road and out of nowhere a 4x4 swerved in front to block it. Then a load of unmarked and marked cars showed up.
"It was well-organised because they were there in a flash."
Another resident of the avenue said: "There were armed gardai, guns out, running towards the vehicle screaming at the occupants to get out of the car.
"They took the driver out and put him in handcuffs. They then searched the boot and pulled out what looked like guns. There were dozens of gardai everywhere."
Zambra, who is in his late 30s, was arrested and remained in custody in Coolock Garda Station last night.
At around the same time yesterday afternoon, gardai stopped a van in nearby Clonshaugh Road and another man, aged 44, was arrested and was also being quizzed overnight.
Ballyfermot man Zambra was cleared of a gangland murder in 2012.
He had pleaded not guilty to murdering Sean McMahon (36) at his Tallaght home in 2007.
During the trial, the jury was sent away while all sides dealt with a legal issue.
When they returned, the prosecutor said he was not offering any further evidence and the judge acceded to a defence request to direct the jury to acquit.
Zambra has a number of previous convictions, including a 10-year stretch handed down in July 1997 for an incident in which he stabbed three prison officers with a syringe filled with his hepatitis C-infected blood while trying to escape from the Mater Hospital.
He admitted a number of armed robberies in March, July and August 1996.
The brother of the suspected target in yesterday's incident, Anthony Russell, was gunned down in the Arlea Inn, Artane, in April 2008.
The dead man was a close associate of paedophile north inner city gang boss Christy Griffin.
One theory last night on yesterday's suspected attempted murder is that it might be linked to a dispute with a Coolock criminal who has just been released from jail.