Sunday 28 May 2017

Suspect in Costa murder wanted for kidnapping

Shane Phelan and Tom Worden

THE prime suspect in the murder of an Irish holidaymaker in Spain is a violent criminal wanted for kidnapping in the UK, it emerged last night.

Spanish police yesterday named Darren O'Flaherty (35), from Liverpool, as the man who they believe shot Dubliner John O'Neill (41) in a Costa del Sol bar.

The father of two from Bunratty Drive in Coolock was gunned down in the seaside resort of Benalmadena in the early hours of Wednesday.

O'Flaherty was already on the run from the UK, where he is wanted by Yorkshire police in connection with kidnapping and robbery offences from 2006.

He was charged with the offences in 2008 but absconded before his trial.

He had previously served five years for wounding a police informant.

O'Flaherty was subsequently described as one of Britain's most wanted criminals on the BBC 'Crimewatch' programme.

A spokesman for Yorkshire police told the Irish Independent that Spanish authorities had sought information from them about O'Flaherty following Mr O'Neill's murder.

The spokesman said both police forces were co-operating in the search for the fugitive.

O'Flaherty is one of two men on the run following the theft of a lorry containing €400,000 worth of computers, televisions, radios, fridges, microwaves and other electrical goods in October 2006.

A lorry driver was kidnapped and held at knifepoint for several hours before eventually being freed.

The raiders then set the lorry on fire.

Spanish police said they believed O'Flaherty had been living with a girlfriend in a rented flat in Benalmadena.

Neither of them has been seen since the shooting. Police searched the suspect's apartment and found the bloodstained clothes.

A judge overseeing the murder investigation from a court in Torremolinos issued a warrant for O'Flaherty's arrest on Thursday.

Yorkshire police also said they were in the process of obtaining a European arrest warrant in relation to the kidnapping and robbery charges.

Mr O'Neill was one of dozens of Irish holidaymakers who had flown to Spain for a wedding which had been due to take place today.

Row

On Tuesday night, a large number of the group went to Coco's bar in Benalmadena for a quiet drink, but a row broke out in the early hours.

The argument started when an English drinker began banging on the door of a locked cubicle in the men's toilet. Mr O'Neill is believed to have acted as a peacemaker and attempted to diffuse the situation.

The English man was ejected from the bar, but returned at around 3am on Wednesday morning with a .38 calibre pistol and opened fire.

At least five shots were sprayed around the pub and Mr O'Neill was fatally wounded in the back.

The gunman fled as holidaymakers in the bar, including women and children, dived for cover.

Mr O'Neill stumbled out into the street and collapsed in a pool of blood by a bus stop 50 yards away, where he died despite the efforts of paramedics to save him.

His girlfriend Maxine suffered a panic attack and was also treated but she was not injured.

Mr O'Neill's aunt Peig Dowdall described her nephew as "a gorgeous, big soft guy, always with a smile on his face" and said he was "just in the wrong place".

He worked as a plasterer and was well liked in the Coolock area, where he played darts and was a pigeon enthusiast.

He is survived by two children, a son Jake (3) and a daughter, Jasmine, who is just nine months old.

Irish Independent

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