Sunday 18 August 2019

Gardaí arrested three man 'hit team' 250 metres from home of Hutch 'target' - court

Patsy Hutch was the target of a foiled hit on his life
Patsy Hutch was the target of a foiled hit on his life

Andrew Phelan and Eimear Cotter

A THREE-man "hit team" was arrested by gardai investigating the planned gangland murder of a member of the Hutch family, a court has heard.

The three were caught with a submachine gun and three handguns in a van in an underground car park 250 metres from the home of the planned "target," Patrick "Patsy" Hutch.

Brothers Glen and Gary Thompson, along with a third co-accused, Robert Browne have admitted unlawful possession of four firearms with intent to endanger life at Belmont Hall Apartments, Gardiner Street, Dublin 1, on March 10, 2018.

The weapons were a 9mm Rak submachine gun, a .38 special calibre Rossi make revolver, a 9mm Beretta 92 semi-automatic pistol and a 9mm Makarov semi-automatic pistol.

Gary Thompson (34), of Plunkett Green, Finglas, Dublin 11, Glen Thompson (23), of Plunkett Drive, Finglas, and Browne (35), of Phibsboro Road in Phibsboro, Dublin 7 had pleaded guilty previously and evidence their cases was heard at the non-jury Special Criminal Court today.

Det Supt David Gallagher, attached to the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, told the court he was the senior investigating officer in what was an intelligence-led operation between early February and March 10, 2018.

Confidential information was received about individuals within an organised crime gang who were involved in a serious feud, targeting rivals in another group “for assassination.”

Surveillance was carried out of people suspected to be involved, including people not in court, before the three accused “became visible” to gardai.

Other people were identified as having been involved in the movement of vehicles, purchase of mobile phones, surveillance of the target address and financing.

Others were to have been involved in the planned attack but this changed in March and the three defendants took over the role as “effectively the hit team,” Det Supt Gallagher said.

Most of the planning and logistical support was already in place by this time, he said.

Glen Thompson first became visible to gardai on March 4 when he attended a meeting at a coffee shop in Santry. Browne became visible when a vehicle was stopped at the North Circular Road on March 6, near where the “target” lived.

Through audio recordings and CCTV, it became apparent to gardai there was a plan to murder Patrick “Patsy” Hutch as he left his address at Champion’s Avenue in Dublin 1.

There were three parts to the plan; first, to move a van into an underground carpark at the apartment building near Mr Hutch’s address.

This van was to be used as a staging post providing cover for the hit team while they were waiting for a signal that the target was on the move.

The second part was to have a getaway vehicle parked at Stoney Road in East Wall, with an escape route to it through a pedestrian tunnel.

The third part of the plan was to be in position in the van in the early morning and wait for a phone call from a “looker” who would have sight of the target as he left his address.

The hit team would alight from the van, into a waiting vehicle and intercept and kill the target, Det Supt Gallagher said.

The three men were seen getting into a van which was parked at Plunkett Green and a conversation was recorded between Gary Thompson and Browne in which reservations were expressed about another man not before the court.

This man “eventually dropped out of the picture.”

Browne was heard on the recording saying: “I just don’t like the way he wants to do Patsy.”

There was a conversation with references to “the cartel” and money and at one point, Browne said: “I’ll get you 15 grand on this.”

On March 9, a vehicle was moved from Finglas to Stoney Road and stayed in situ until it was recovered by gardai.

A transcript of another audio conversation showed a level of forensic awareness, with Glen Thompson heard saying “you would want to watch what you are touching there.”

Browne said: “I’m not driving with gloves, I’ll wipe it down.”

Glen Thompson was heard saying: “I’ll give you the Makarov,” while Browne said: “I’ll take the little small one… you take the 38.”

Browne said “what I want is to get into the van and no-one see us,” adding: “then there’s a red alert for a white van, you know what I mean. It’s real quiet in there, especially with them guards.”

Det Supt Gallagher explained there was a uniformed garda presence close to Mr Hutch’s house.

Referring to youths in the area, Browne was also heard saying there could be someone being paid “to watch his back going in.”

On March 10, the garda operation moved from surveillance to intervention as it had reached a critical point, the court heard.

The three were seen travelling in an Audi through the city centre into a gated underground carpark at an apartment complex 250 metres from Mr Hutch’s house, where it parked up near a Ford Connect van that had been bought on Done Deal and falsely registered.

Browne was driving the Audi, wearing a dark wig, while the other two defendants were passengers.

They all left the Audi and entered the rear of the van.

At this point, a decision was made to conduct an “armed intervention” by the ERU.

All three were removed from the van.

The court heard that the men were interviewed between 14 and 17 times, but exercised their right to silence. In one interview, Browne explained that he got involved due to a drug debt.

The guns and ammunition were later examined and were found to be fully functioning and in good condition.

DNA belonging Browne was found on a water bottle in the Audi vehicle, while Glen Thompson's DNA was found on a blue towel. Gary Thompson's fingerprint was found on a plastic bag.

Defence lawyer Sean Gillane SC, for Browne, said that he was brought into this matter at a relatively late stage, and he was not one of the organisers.

Super Gallagher accepted that Browne was taking instructions rather than giving them.

Mr Gillane said Browne was one of seven siblings, and was reared in the Phibsborough area.

As an adult, he moved to the UK to start a new life, and he later served in the British Army between 2007 and 2011, completing tours in Afghanistan and Helmand province.

He returned to Ireland after he left the army and following the breakdown of a relationship.

Mr Gillane said Browne had problems with drugs and alcohol and he suffered the tragic passing of his sister in 2017.

Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC, for Glen Thompson, said his client was a scaffolder. He completed his Junior Certificate, but he struggled after both his father and brother were the victims of separate shootings, and he had battled problems with cocaine, cannabis and alcohol.

He was now clean of drugs, the court heard.

Mr O Lideadha also said his client was particularly close to his mother and felt shame and embarrassment at the trouble he had brought upon her.

In relation to Gary Thompson, Michael Bowman SC, said he was a qualified scaffolder and had four children. He was working as a cleaner in prison.

All three lawyers asked the court to give their clients credit for their early guilty pleas, which had saved a lengthy trial.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Martin Nolan and Judge Ann Ryan, said he will deliver sentence on July 29.

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