Thursday 29 September 2016

'They can shoot me, but not in front of my son (7)' - Gareth Hutch's plea for help 24 hours before death

Alan O'Keeffe

Published 25/05/2016 | 11:43

Gardai investigating the murder of Gareth Hutch raided a house in the north inner city (Inset: Murder victim Gareth Hutch)
Gardai investigating the murder of Gareth Hutch raided a house in the north inner city (Inset: Murder victim Gareth Hutch)

THE country's latest gangland murder victim appealed for help less than 24 hours before he was killed because he believed - correctly - his life was in danger, and that where he was living wasn't safe.

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"They can shoot me, but not in front of my son. I don't want that," Gareth Hutch told city councillor Nial Ring on Monday.

Mr Hutch was killed as he was preparing to appeal to Dublin City Council housing officers to move him from the flats because he was in fear for his life and looked after his son four days a week.

He was also concerned that the flat he was living in was an easy target as a balcony could be accessed from the ground and he claimed CCTV did not cover that part of the complex.

Mr Ring recounted their meeting on Monday, when Hutch told him he wanted to move to a more secure flat within the Avondale House council complex in Dublin's north inner city.

The Independent councillor and other people in the north inner city spoke yesterday of the community's horror at the latest feud murder.

"He came into my constituency office about getting a transfer from the flat to a different one in the complex," said Mr Ring.

"His point was that he was on the first floor where there was access to a balcony from the side which wasn't covered by CCTV. He felt this was putting him in more danger.

"He did point out to me that his flat number and his mobile number was directly connected to the Garda Emergency Response Unit.

Read more: Captured on CCTV: Chilling moment Gareth Hutch is targeted mid-morning outside his Dublin home

"But his main concern was about his seven-year-old son, who stayed with him four nights a week.

"He didn't want anything to happen to him while his son was there. His main concern was that if something was to happen to him, his son wouldn't be there.

"We did a letter about it and he was to go to the welfare officer at 10am this morning. We spent a half-hour going through the letter, about his life being in danger in his flat and the need to move out.

"He was obviously a very dedicated and very devoted father as his concern was for the little guy.

"The guards would probably find that letter in his clothes."

Read more: Gardaí probing link between former senior officer and Kinahan cartel

Mr Ring said he and fellow councillor Christy Burke were offering to be mediators to try to bring the violence to an end.

"The people of the area are having these terrible events being visited upon them with increasing frequency," said Mr Ring.

"It was only a few hundred yards from where the Peace March was last week when we had the archbishop and the community all marching together.

"There were 400 or 500 of us on the march. People want the 100 gardai that have been taken off the streets in this part of the city to be put back."

A 47-year-old father-of-two who lives near the scene of yesterday's murder said: "For the past month, gardai were stopping cars very close to where it happened. It's getting worse."

Read more: Paul Williams: Unequal gang war was always going to lead to bloodbath

Another man said: "It happened very close to Larkin College secondary school. Students could have been hit by a stray bullet. The police can't be everywhere."

Roger Farrell (43), who works in a local shop, said: "It's very nerve-racking. No one knows when it's going to stop. I'd be afraid that passers-by could get hurt."

Labour senator Aodhan O Riordain said Government departments must work together to stop such murders becoming "normalised".

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan called for the battle against the gangs to be "intensified".

Read more: David McWilliams: There's an easy way to destroy drugs gangs for good

Gareth Hutch, who was in his 30s and the father of a young son, was shot dead in broad daylight on Tuesday morning in the Avondale House complex in Cumberland Street North, a few hundred yards from bustling O'Connell Street.

A nephew of Gerry "The Monk" Hutch, he is believed to be the seventh victim of a bloody dispute between the Kinahan and Hutch families that has spiralled out of control.

The latest murder on the Irish capital's streets has sparked calls for a state crackdown on underworld gangsters similar to that launched when journalist Veronica Guerin was shot dead in 1996.

Mr Hutch was charged in relation to a cash-in-transit robbery in Lucan in 2009 but disappeared before the trial and was later extradited from the Ntherlands.

The Hutch family and their associates have been repeatedly targeted by underworld rivals since the audacious AK47 gun attack on a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel in north Dublin in February.

David Byrne, from the Crumlin area of Dublin and an associate of the Kinahan family, was killed in that incident.

His murder was said to have been in retaliation for the fatal shooting of Gary Hutch in September last year on the Costa del Sol after he fell foul of the Kinahan outfit and their operations in Spain.

Six of the seven men shot dead so far in the gangland fall-out were murdered over the past four months.

One of the victims was innocent father-of-three Martin O'Rourke, who was killed in crossfire outside Noctor's bar on Sheriff Street in Dublin when a gunman on a bike tried to murder another associate of the Hutch family.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald rejected suggestions that Garda operations had been scaled back in the midst of the gangland killings.

"These ruthless gangs intent on violence and revenge have no place in any community in this country and they will not be tolerated," she said.

"We are confronting this and will see those involved brought to justice."

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