Paul Williams: How a father's bravery and the full force of the law brought Dundons' reign of terror to an end
But budget cuts have now made it harder for gardai to tackle crime, writes Paul Williams
Published 14/08/2013 | 05:00
OVER a seven-year period, John Dundon and his brothers waged the equivalent of a terrorist campaign in Limerick.
They were directly linked to most of the 20 gangland murders and many more were injured and maimed.
Dundon's conviction for the murder of an innocent man yesterday was a good day for law enforcement and an even better one for the people of Limerick.
As he starts his life sentence, joining his relations and associates behind bars, the gardai in Limerick have won another spectacular victory – and the relatives of the dead have had some kind of closure.
Dundon and his gang were narco-terrorists in the mould of the South American cartels.
Such was the level of sheer terror they instilled that other young men who fell foul of them committed suicide in a desperate bid to escape their clutches.
Mayhem arrived in Limerick when the Dundon brothers, John, Gerard, Dessie and Wayne, returned from the UK in 2000.
They teamed up with their cousins the McCarthys with just one ambition: to dominate the city's underworld.
By that time, the siblings had already earned reputations for extreme violence. They inherited their bloodlust from their father Kenneth, a convicted killer.
In London, where they grew up, the Dundon brothers cut their teeth terrorising elderly and other vulnerable people.
Inflicting pain and fear was what they did best – even as children. Wayne Dundon once beat his own mother so badly that she was hospitalised for three weeks.
When he was 18 he was jailed for a series of robberies, including one where a wheelchair-bound pensioner was savagely beaten.
From the moment they arrived in Limerick the McCarthy/Dundons became players in the drug market.
They did business and built up close links with other gangs in the city, carrying out armed robberies to fund drug deals.
But they were also sizing up the opposition, especially the Keane/Collopy clans, who they secretly planned to usurp.
In 2001, when John Dundon was 19, he shot his cousin John Creamer 14 times with a machine gun after they had a row over the proceeds of a jewellery heist. Creamer was left with 28 entry and exit wounds but miraculously survived – only to die years later from a drug overdose.
In February 2003, the McCarthy/Dundons lured rival crime boss Kieran Keane and his nephew Owen Treacy into a murder trap.
It was a spectacular double cross which resulted in the murder of Keane, a cold-blooded killer, and the attempted murder of Treacy.
His later testimony resulted in Dessie Dundon and four of his associates getting life.
The McCarthy/Dundons were notorious for double and even treble-crossing associates.
One veteran detective said: "They are the most devious and dangerous gang that we ever encountered in Limerick.
"They were called the piranhas because they would eat each other if they were hungry enough."
In October 2003, the McCarthy/Dundons lured Michael Campbell McNamara, a member of the Keane/Collopy, gang into a trap.
McNamara was systematically tortured and forced to call Brian Collopy, the head of the opposing gang, to lure him into the same trap. Collopy's instincts told him to stay away.
When the gardai found McNamara's body the following day it was discovered he had been stabbed at least 10 times, in the back and chest.
He had been blasted, at close range, with a shotgun directly into his pelvis and buttocks.
McNamara was then finished off with a shot to the head.
There was also the case of another impressionable 20-year-old called James Cronin, who had been recruited by the Dundons to take part in the murder of another rival, Mark Maloney, in 2008.
Cronin's role was to get a car for the hit. But within six hours of the attack he too had been shot dead. Why? Because he became upset at what he had been involved in. He was shot in case he talked to the police.
What made the Dundons stand out was their willingness to murder innocent people.
Nightclub bouncer Brian Fitzgerald paid the ultimate price when he stopped the members of Murder Inc – as they became known – from selling their drugs in the club where he worked.
The story of the ordeal suffered by the Collins family best illustrates the sheer evil of Murder Inc.
It began in 2004 when pub-owner Steve Collins's adopted son Ryan Lee refused to allow the Dundons' 14-year-old sister Annabel entry on to the premises with her brother Wayne.
The thug returned and shot Ryan a number of times, seriously injuring him.
Later Steve and Ryan testified in court against Wayne, who was jailed for making threats to kill the young bar man. But the gang never forgets.
They burnt down one of the family's two thriving pubs.
Then Wayne sent orders to John Dundon in the autumn of 2008 to carry out two murders.
One of the men on the list was John 'Pitchfork' McNamara and the other was Steve Collins. John Dundon sent Barry Doyle to murder McNamara but he mistook Shane Geoghegan and shot the wrong man.
The Dundons sent another hit man, 24-year-old James Dillon, to murder Steve's son Roy on Holy Thursday 2009.
But that would prove to be a watershed in the story of Murder Inc. Steve Collins launched a massive public campaign against the gang prompting the government to introduce tough anti-gang legislation.
Extra police were drafted to make life miserable for the McCarthy/Dundons. Ultimately it worked as several gang members on both sides were rounded up and jailed.
But for the Collins family it would become too much and, in March 2012, they left Ireland as part of a witness re-location programme.
Steve and his loved ones could no longer bear the constant threats – and the round-the-clock armed protection around him and his sons. The news of Dundon's conviction will provide some solace for this brave man.
Chief Superintendent Dave Sheehan and his officers have done the State great service.
They proved that the only way to tackle the bad guys is by the rule of law.
One shudders to think what would happen today as the garda budget barely provides for the wages of our men and women in blue. If the Dundons arrived in 2013, there simply wouldn't be the resources there to take them on.