Tuesday 28 March 2017

How Tango Squad evolved from watching a gangster to the Garda 'Big Brother'

Under the Crime and Security regime, centralised intelligence gathering has expanded hugely, writes Jim Cusack

WATCHING BRIEF: Martin Cahill, ‘The General’, covers his face with a pair of Mickey Mouse boxers after leaving court in 1988. Photo: Mark Maxwell
WATCHING BRIEF: Martin Cahill, ‘The General’, covers his face with a pair of Mickey Mouse boxers after leaving court in 1988. Photo: Mark Maxwell
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

In the Eighties, gardai appeared impotent in their dealings with the Dublin gangster Martin Cahill. He was responsible for a series of high-profile robberies and most spectacularly the theft of prize paintings from the collection of Sir Alfred Beit of the Beit diamond dynasty, from Russborough House in Co Wicklow. The haul, including one of the last remaining Vermeers in private hands, would be worth several hundred million euro on the legitimate open market now.

Cahill, poorly educated and from an impoverished background, was an assiduous planner and thought carefully about the tactics gardai would use against him. He was aware of how advances in forensic science were helping to catch criminals in Britain and new techniques were being worked on in the State Forensic Laboratory at Garda HQ.

In May 1982, believing that improvements in forensic science would link him to robberies and other crimes, he arranged for the State's chief forensic scientist, Dr James O'Donovan, to be murdered. Explosives were attached to the exhaust manifold in Dr O'Donovan's car. As he drove to work, the heat from the manifold detonated the plastic explosive, causing permanent crippling injury to the doctor. At the time it was believed the IRA had carried out the attack as it was not thought possible that Cahill or any ordinary criminal could arrange such a bomb attack.

Please sign in or register with Independent.ie for free access to Opinions.

Sign In

Don't Miss