'You can imagine for a soft professional like me, it really took me back' - Solicitor of murdered mum Baiba Saulite on being viciously targeted by gangland criminals
'Paul Williams Meets' podcast
Published 19/07/2016 | 09:15
JOHN Hennessy is unlike any other solicitor in Ireland - he has been the target of a murder attempt by organised crime gangs.
The Swords solicitor to murdered mother-of-two Baiba Saulite was viciously targeted by gangland thugs who tried to burn him and his partner to death in their own home.
In an exclusive podcast with Independent.ie, John revealed how Baiba's brutal murder turned his life upside down.
He also spoke of the ongoing Hutch/Kinahan feud, which he said he knew was reaching boiling point while the State was "asleep at the wheel".
"I want to live in a State where I am safe in my own home. Gangland Ireland is indiscriminate, they don't give a damn and that's why they have got to be stopped," he said.
Latvian mother Baiba Saulite was shot dead on the doorstep of her home in Swords on November 19, 2006.
John represented Baiba after he successfully forced an individual to return her sons into her care - after he kidnapped them in 2004 and sent them to live with his mother in Lebanon.
"It was a very difficult case…. a particular individual on the other side was a very unpleasant character," said John.
"The abduction of the kids - taken out of the jurisdiction - whilst the alleged abductor stayed Ireland…that fascinated me, it was kind of two fingers to the State.
"I just looked at this guy and thought that he doesn't give a damn. Individuals were able to elicit the help of gangland Ireland and didn't give a damn about the consequences."
John was approached by senior gardai in late 2005 and informed that his life was in danger.
"You can imagine for a soft professional like me, it really took me back… I couldn't believe it.
"I didn't want to drop the case, that would be the completely wrong thing to do.
"I took the safety advice, checking to see if anybody is hanging around my routine and [put] cameras in the house," he said.
However, the extreme threat against his life was made clear when vicious thugs tried to brutally kill John and his partner.
As he slept, his Swords house was set alight and engulfed in a blaze within minutes.
"Fortunately I am a light sleeper, I woke up and the smoke alarm was going off. We had to get out of the house, downstairs was engulfed in smoke and we managed to get out the back door.
"This was attempted murder, I have no doubt about that.
"It was recorded as criminal damage, but I have no doubt it was an attempt on my life. I knew instantly, I had absolutely no doubt as to who did it.
"It was put to me at the time by friends that I might want to leave the country. There was no way I was going to do that, not at the hands of these animals who the State allowed to get so powerful that they do such atrocities," he said.
He believes gardai knew who carried out the deadly attack.
"The information was there, whether or not it was acted upon early enough, we will never know, and it is not something I have become obsessed about.
"It was an awful, terrible experience. We got through it and fixed up the house."
Just a year later, the beautiful mother was shot dead on a cold winter's night by a lone gunman on the doorstep of her rented house.
Immediately after the murder, John was provided with 24-hour armed protection by gardai, which he describes as "particularly intrusive and difficult".
John said the protection by the State took "a lot of getting used to" and that he wanted to escape from it.
"It was extremely difficult. It was enormously stressful - you're living on a day-to-day basis.
"It was costing the state a fortune, but it was all down to the power of gangland."
The experienced solicitor now believes the Government needs to take urgent action to resolve Dublin's gangland feud.
He also believes that somebody - either a politician or the garda commissioner - must take responsibility and be accountable for gangland crime.
"I knew from a couple of sources, a number of months beforehand, that this was going to happen, that the Kinahan-Hutch group thing was boiling over. Why the hell didn't the State know?
"The State was asleep at the wheel on so many different levels. We have got to look ahead as a State to the kind of country we want to live in.
"I feel it is almost incumbent upon me, it's important for me to convince people that we cannot have or accept this kind of thing going on.
"The State is the biggest guy in there, the State has to flex its muscles.
"The reality is they have the power to deal with this. We have legislation to beat the band. The laws are there, implement the laws and make sure the gardai are particularly motivated," he added.