Sunday 23 October 2016

Vortex of murder ... how gangland violence hit new depths of depravity

The murderous gangland feud is all the more vicious as it's not just business, it's personal, write Maeve Sheehan and Jim Cusack

Maeve Sheehan and Jim Cusack

Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30

The bullet-riddled body of David Byrne (32) was released to his family this weekend. His remains were taken to his family home in Raleigh Square in Crumlin, in Dublin's south inner city, where he will be waked.

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Relatives, friends, local people and many of his criminal colleagues are among those expected to pay their respects. Every stage of his journey to Mount Jerome Cemetery tomorrow will be watched by detectives alert to the possibility of another outbreak of violence in the tinderbox atmosphere triggered by Byrne's murder by gunmen disguised as gardai at the Regency Court Hotel a week ago last Friday afternoon.

For more than a week, armed detectives have been patrolling the streets of Crumlin and the north inner city. There, the family of taxi driver Eddie Hutch (59), murdered in a hail of bullets last Monday night in retribution for Byrne's slaying, are preparing to receive his body.

The fall-out from the quest for vengeance unleashed in the capital in the past 10 days reaches beyond gangs of warring criminals trying to take each other out. Innocent lives have been put at risk. More than 200 bystanders, including young children, fled in panic from the gunmen who rampaged through the Regency Hotel.

Chilling death threats have been issued against a number of journalists at Independent News & Media (INM), targeted because they chronicled the escalation of hostilities between the warring gangs in their newspapers.

The murders have exposed intelligence deficits at the highest levels of An Garda Siochana, who although attuned to the escalating tensions were taken by surprise by both of the gun attacks.

Pitted on either side of this bloody feud are two veterans of organised crime, both from the same side of the city, both suspected of making their fortunes from crime and both with reputations as being criminal masterminds in their respective fields.

Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch (52) honed his criminal skills on the streets of the north inner city where he was raised. Robbery, housebreaking and stealing cars were his first forays into crime. At the age of 23, he was the suspected mastermind of the first of two of the biggest cash heists of their day - the £1.7m robbery of a security van in Marino Mart in 1987 and the theft of £3m from a Brinks Allied security van in north Co Dublin in 1995. He denied involvement in both, but when the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) taxed him on the proceeds of the robbery he paid up more than €1.5m.

Hutch has claimed he went straight decades ago and that his money came from property. He publicly denounced drugs, founded an inner city boxing club, qualified for a taxi licence, set up a chauffeur service called Carry Any Body (also CAB) and moved his family into the middle-class neighbourhood of Clontarf.

Garda sources say he has kept off their radar since he settled with the bureau. He still trades on his reputation and reportedly retains his links with criminals in the UK and Ireland. His pals include Noel Duggan, a cigarette smuggler who settled a €4m tax demand from the bureau.

In 2009, the Sunday World reported on Hutch's supposed association with a Birmingham criminal. He is said now to split his time between Dublin and Lanzarote.

In contrast, Christy Kinahan (58) shrugged off a respectable family background to get involved in drugs.

The son of a dairy firm manager, home was a Victorian terrace on Charleville Road in Phibsborough, but he was caught with an Algerian man cutting heroin in a flat in Marino in 1986. He served two stretches in prison, the first for the heroin bust, the second when he was caught with stolen travellers cheques. He was more polished than the average street dealer and used his time inside learning languages and studying for two degrees in, of all things, environmental science and sociology. After his release in 2001 he moved to Spain, quietly building up an international drug trafficking empire which he controls from his gated villa in Estepona on the Costa del Sol.

He is reputedly a trilingual drug trafficker who lives in great luxury but virtual exile, a Mafia don who directs, at one remove, the activities of his gang. His son, Daniel, a would-be boxing promoter, is the reputed frontman supported by a crew of criminal expats from drug-ravaged Dublin suburbs.

While Hutch might be anti-drugs, some of his nephews were up to their necks in narcotics. Christopher Hutch died in 2005 after taking cocaine; Derek is in jail for manslaughter and armed robbery; and Gary fled to Spain after a prison sentence and became one of the most trusted lieutenants in Kinahan's gang.

The Herald newspaper reported details of a dossier compiled by Spanish authorities that ranked Gary Hutch's importance in the gang.

"Freddie [Thompson, from Crumlin] and Gary are just one step below Daniel, are very close and share an equal status. They sometimes give orders to each other without being able to determine who is higher up in the organisation. They are equals, good friends and share a flat," the document said.

Some time over a year ago, Gary fell out of favour. According to one security source, he phoned his uncle, Gerry Hutch, for help. A shipment of cocaine had been intercepted by police. Suspicion fell on Gary. The Kinahan mob accused him of being a police informer. In the murderous world of drug trafficking, being a tout means almost certain execution.

Gerry Hutch and Christy Kinahan met in Palma airport in Majorca.

"They came to an agreement. They agreed that they would leave Gary alone. But Gary could not stay away," said an informed source.

Six weeks later, Gary was shot dead by a masked gunman who chased him through the grounds of the apartment complex where he lived in Mijas Costa. According to a witness, the gunman "started shooting in the garage before chasing his victim out to the swimming pool".

Christy Kinahan knew he had crossed a line. He got his people to contact Gerry Hutch's people to set up a meeting seeking to "square off" the murder of Hutch's nephew.

"Next thing, Kinahan's people came over looking for a meeting with The Monk," said the source. "On three occasions they came in to meet the Hutches, but the Hutches wouldn't meet them. The Kinahans took that as a snub. There are rumours that Daniel Kinahan flew into Dublin airport to meet Gerry Hutch. Hutch didn't turn up."

The snub became a threat.

"The next thing, (Daniel) Kinahan is knocking around Dublin with a big heavy-hitter, a gunman who was suspected of shooting John Gilligan. Kinahan was going around with this fellow," said the source. "The gloves were off. It was one nil, at that stage, to the Kinahans."

Over the past few months, there have been attempted hits and threats on either side. However, last Friday week, events descended into chaos in spectacular fashion when a five-man gang stormed the Regency Hotel where Daniel Kinahan and his cohorts were attending the official weigh-in, a mandatory prerequisite in advance of the fight set for the National Stadium.

One gunman disguised as a "feeble" elderly woman and a younger man wearing a peaked hat and linking 'her' arm entered the hotel through a side entrance shortly after 2pm. They asked a porter for directions to the weigh-in. Seconds later, three gunmen armed with AK-47s and disguised as a garda SWAT team stormed in through the front entrance.

Their intended target, Daniel Kinahan, escaped through a window. David Byrne, one of his henchmen, was gunned down as he tried to flee through the lobby. Witnesses described how a gunman finished him off with a shot to the head while he lay on the floor bleeding from his leg and chest.

Two other men were also shot, one in the leg and one in the stomach.

The gunmen fled the scene, the man in drag ripping off his long blonde wig as he ran. All escaped in a Transit van.

A shocked survivor of the attack filmed them from the hotel's front entrance on a mobile phone as they calmly swiped a fob and waited 15 seconds for the electronic gates of Gracepark Manor, an apartment complex beside the hotel, to open.

Three days later, Gerry Hutch's older brother, Eddie, had just returned home to his flat on Poplar Row, North Strand, after a shopping trip with his partner, Margaret.

He clearly never suspected his life was in danger. He had a string of convictions as a youth but had left all that behind him and earned a living as a taxi driver, according to gardai. The last time he was in court was in 2003 when he got a six-year ban for driving at speed through the north inner city when he was supposed to be off the road.

A neighbour, Ann Gavin, told The Sun: "They had just been out shopping and they had brought the stuff inside and he was going back outside to move the taxi when they got him.

"They chased him in the door and got him just there in the living room. Eddie's wife Margaret is in an awful state. She heard the bang and she knew and started running out the back.

"He got about three or four bullets, all into the head. It was the worst thing in the world. There was blood all over the walls. When I heard the bangs I looked out the window and I seen the car, a silver car, the passenger door was open. And I seen them jumping in and they drove off up that way towards Ballybough."

Ms Gavin ran to Eddie Hutch's side to check for a pulse, but there was none.

"Margaret's in bits. Eddie was lovely and not involved in anything. It's going to kick it all off now," she said.

Hours later across the city, Kinahan's henchman, Freddie Thompson, was spotted driving away from David Byrne's family home in Raleigh Square. Gardai gave chase. Thompson was arrested. His tracksuit and his runners were spotted with blood. Detectives confiscated his clothes, which have been sent for forensic examination. Thompson reportedly left the garda station in his underwear.

The getaway car used by the four-man gang responsible for Hutch's death was abandoned a short distance from the crime scene, intact and with the potential to yield vital clues.

The escalating tensions in this feud have been closely monitored by An Garda Siochana's crime and security branch, but the Regency attack and Hutch's murder three days later have exposed gaps in their intelligence.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has admitted that officers had no specific intelligence in advance of the weigh-in at the Regency or that Eddie Hutch was a retaliatory target. An operational plan was in place for the night of the fight. One security source claimed last week that "the homework was not done".

However, detectives have made progress in identifying suspects. They believe the five-man hit squad who stormed the Regency was no rag-tag bunch of Gary Hutch's pals but a carefully-chosen crew of trained gunmen assembled over months.

The man dressed in drag is believed to have been identified as a criminal from the north inner city. They suspect his cap-wearing accomplice is from Derry. Neither had their faces covered during the attack.

Gardai are still trying to identify the three men dressed in Garda Emergency Response Unit gear, described by witnesses as operating with chilling precision and calm deliberation as they stalked through the hotel seeking their targets.

Their weapons, modified AK-47s, are usually associated with Provos, dissidents and Islamic State militants.

Tom Clonan, a security analyst, last week pointed out "tell-tale signs" that suggested the gunmen had "military standard training" in how to use weapons, carrying them by the sling for optimum firing precision.

Detectives are trying to establish whether the guns were supplied by former members of the Provisional IRA who have long-standing connections to the criminals involved.

Claims last week by the dissident group, the Continuity IRA, that it was responsible are being treated with scepticism.

For now, armed patrols have maintained an uneasy peace on the streets, but retribution hangs heavy in the air.

Sunday Independent

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