A getaway driver who “reprehensibly” used his mother's car to help gangland murderers escape the scene of a west Dublin hit has been jailed for eight years.
Sentencing judge Mr Justice Paul McDermott noted today that the decision to use his own mother's car indicted Matthew Bell's “lack of suitability to his assigned role” in the gang.
Father-of-two John Gibson (28) was shot dead after he was targeted by gunmen from a rival gang in a car park at Citywest Shopping Centre in Dublin.
At the Central Criminal Court this afternoon, Bell (25) of Ambervale, Cookstown, Dublin 24, was jailed for his role in the killing after he pleaded guilty to participating in or contributing to the murder of Mr Gibson on September 18, 2017, intending to facilitate the activities of a criminal organisation.
Sentencing Bell to nine years and three months’ imprisonment, with the final 15 months suspended, the judge said Bell had driven the car which allowed the gunmen to escape the murder scene and had been an “essential cog” in the gang’s operation which led to Mr Gibson’s fatal shooting.
Speaking outside court, Mr Gibson’s mother Tara Gibson said that while she was “happy” with the sentence handed down, she had hoped Bell would have been jailed for longer.
“I only hope they catch the other ones responsible,” she said. “They are still out there.”
Ms Gibson previously told the court that “a part of me died” after gardaí informed her that her son had been shot dead.
Describing the killing as a “cold-blooded murder carried out in a public place”, the judge said any sentence imposed would have to reflect the “damage done as well as the nature of the offence”.
He said Mr Gibson’s death had caused “deep sorrow” to his family and had left his two children, who were aged four and five at the time of the murder, without a father.
“The horror of his death and its aftermath remains with them,” the judge said.
Although the offence was in the “upper end of the scale” and a headline term of 12 years and six months was merited, the judge said there were several mitigating factors which entitled Bell to a reduced sentence.
These included Bell’s early guilty plea and his battle against drug addiction, which the judge said indicated there could be a “different path” for the accused in the future.
Mr Justice McDermott also described Bell’s decision to use his mother’s car to transport the killers from the crime scene as “reprehensible” and had indicted the accused’s “lack of suitability to his assigned role” in the gang.
At a previous hearing, Ms Gibson fought back tears as she described the “nightmare” she and her family have endured since being told her son was dead.
She said there were “no words that can be put on paper” to describe the devastation her family was feeling, adding that her only solace was knowing that her “gentle giant of a son, who was a kind and loving man, was in heaven right now, looking down on his two young children”.
“He was a victim of violence, not a perpetrator,” she said.
The last time Ms Gibson said she saw her son alive he had hugged her and told her he loved her after they enjoyed a family meal at her house.
Two hours later, she was told in a garda station that her son was dead.
The next time she saw him, she said, “he was laid out in the coffin with his head stapled together and bullet wounds in his chest, something no mother should have to see”.
“I constantly think about the last few minutes of his life and the fear he must have felt as he got out of his car and ran for his life,” she said in a victim impact statement read out in court.
“No parent should have to go through what I went through. A part of me died that day.”
At the same hearing, Detective Sergeant Seamus Palmer told Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, that a Volkswagen Caddy was observed on CCTV arriving and leaving the crime scene at the time of Mr Gibson’s murder.
The occupants of the Caddy, which Det-Sgt Palmer described as the “getaway car”, were seen a short time later getting into black Opel Corsa at a spot close to where the Caddy had been burnt out.
The Corsa, Det-Sgt Palmer said, was later traced to Bell’s mother, who told gardaí she and her husband were out of the country at the time of the shooting.
Mrs Bell also told officers her son had access to the vehicle when his parents were away.
When he was arrested 13 months later, Bell told detectives he had been out “driving and smoking and listening to music” on the night Mr Gibson was targeted by a rival gang.
However, he was later charged with participating in or contributing to the murder of Mr Gibson, contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.
Det-Sgt Palmer told Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, defending, that although Bell was neither a “hardened criminal” nor the “driving force behind the murder”, he was still an “essential cog” in the fatal shooting.
Mr Ó Lideadha told the court he had been asked to convey on client’s behalf “his remorse and commitment to become a better person”.
Bell, counsel said, had blamed his involvement in Mr Gibson’s killing on his own stupidity and drug taking, and his client acknowledged there were no words that could be said “on his behalf that could make up for what he did”.