Saturday 3 December 2016

'There's a noise, a bang, her voice breaks... I will never forget that sound' - Paul Williams recalls chilling recording of friend Veronica Guerin's murder

Sasha Brady

Published 24/11/2016 | 20:11

Paul Williams: State of Fear airs Monday, November 28 and Tuesday, November 29 at 10pm on TV3.
Paul Williams: State of Fear airs Monday, November 28 and Tuesday, November 29 at 10pm on TV3.

Broadcaster and crime correspondent Paul Williams retraces the steps of murdered journalist Veronica Guerin in the new TV3 two-part documentary 'Paul Williams: State of Fear'.

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Best-selling author Paul compares the horrific events of 1996 - the murders of Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin and the murder of Det Gda Jerry McCabe in Adare, Co Limerick - to the events of 2016.

Williams last saw mum-of-one Veronica alive as they both attended a garda press conference regarding the murder of Det McCabe in Limerick's Henry Street Garda Station on June 7th, less than three weeks before Veronica was murdered on the orders of convicted drug dealer John Gilligan.

Williams told viewers that himself and Veronica were on the same beat as they were both crime correspondents, and saw each other as rivals.

The late ‘Sunday Independent’ journalist Veronica Guerin
The late ‘Sunday Independent’ journalist Veronica Guerin

For the documentary, the Newstalk broadcaster filmed a segment on June 26 last, the 20th anniversary of Veronica's murder.

In the footage, he movingly recalls how an overjoyed Veronica had left Naas courthouse after judge fined her for a speeding offence, but opted not to take her driving licence.

He follows the route she took from the courthouse to the traffic junction on the Naas Road where she was gunned down by Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland.

"Veronica had less than 20 minutes to live that day.

"And as she was driving here, this pernicious murder machine was bearing down on her," he says.

As he passes the Airmotive plant on the Naas Road, he recalls this was the location on the road where Russell Warren placed a phone call to Brian Meehan.

John Gilligan cutting trees at his home on the Jessbrook Complex. Photo: Sunday World
John Gilligan cutting trees at his home on the Jessbrook Complex. Photo: Sunday World

"Warren told Meehan she was passing the location, and Meehan replied: 'Okay I see her'.

"And he [Meehan] slips out into the traffic.

"Just here is the location where Veronica pulled up to the lights, at the junction of Boot Road with the Naas Road.

"At 12.52pm, she talked to her mum and told her the good news that she kept her driving licence.

"And then she rang the number of a garda friend of her's to also tell him the good news. And she was in the process of leaving a message at exactly 12.54pm.

"I will never forget that sound [of the recorded message] during Gilligan's trial.

96 Sunday World Journalist Paul Williams and photographer Liam O'Connor at the scene of the murder of Journalist Veronica Guerin. Pic Steve Humphreys 26/6/96 1990's
NPA/Independent Collection
96 Sunday World Journalist Paul Williams and photographer Liam O'Connor at the scene of the murder of Journalist Veronica Guerin. Pic Steve Humphreys 26/6/96 1990's NPA/Independent Collection

"There's a noise, a bang, her voice breaks. You hear... Veroncia's obviously fumbling with the phone. She presses one of the keys and then you hear crack, and then a second crack. And then the line goes dead."

"Twenty years ago, Dutchy Holland got off the back of a motorbike and he shot her five times at close range right there. And Veronica Guerin was dead."

Gilligan (65) was acquitted of Veronica's murder - but he remains the chief suspect.

He was eventually convicted of drug trafficking in 2001, and was initially handed a 28-year-sentence, which was eventually reduced on appeal.

Gilligan was freed from Portlaoise Prison on October 15, 2013.

Brian Meehan, remains the only person serving life imprisonment for the murder of Veronica Guerin. He was sentenced to life along with concurrent terms of up to 20 years' imprisonment for drugs and firearms offences. He lost his final appeal against sentence in 2006 and has no release date from jail.

Holland, the man who shot dead Veronica Guerin, was never convicted of murder.

He received a 20-year sentence for possession of drugs but this was later reduced to 12 years. He was released from prison in 2006 and a year later was arrested by police in England investigating a plot to kidnap a millionaire businessman. He was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment in 2007 and died in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight in June 2009 aged 70.

Russell Warren was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in November 1997 for laundering £2.7m of the estimated £16.8m drug money made by the Gilligan gang between 1994 and September 1997. He was released in 2001 after having testified in court against the others.

Recalling his sister's death and the events in 2016, Veronica's brother Jimmy Guerin said he still has hope for the future, and when he sees young people in Ireland today, he is confident they will make the right decisions when it comes to tackling crime.

Williams also pays tribute to his murdered Sunday World colleague Martin O'Hagan who was murdered by paramilitaries in 2001.

The programme features new footage of John Gilligan and Paul also speaks to a number of prominent people in Irish media, most of whom were colleagues of Veronica’s as well as Veronica’s brother Jimmy.

Williams is due to appear on RTE's Late Late Show tomorrow night, where he will go into more detail about the TV3 documentary.

* 'Paul Williams: States of Fear' will be screened on TV3 on Monday, November 28th, and Tuesday, November 29th.

Following on from the two-part crime documentary on Wednesday 30th November, Pat Kenny Tonight will also hone in on the subject of organised crime in Ireland.

fear of law and order.

This new two-part series sees crime journalist and writer Paul Williams go on a personal journey, comparing the horrific events of 1996 which saw the assassination of journalist Veronica Guerin, to 2016 and the spate of murders in recent months, to understand if we are winning or losing the war on crime and if we’re still living in a state of fear.

The programme features new footage of John Gilligan and Paul also speaks to a number of prominent people in Irish media, most of whom were colleagues of Veronica’s as well as Veronica’s brother Jimmy.

Following on from the two-part crime documentary on Wednesday 30th November, Pat Kenny Tonight will also hone in on the subject of organised crime in Ireland. Pat and Colette will be joined in studio by special guests to debate if anything has improved in the last twenty years or if we are all still living in fear.

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