Thursday 19 April 2018

Hitman gets life for shooting dead another 'gun-for-hire'

Nicola Donnelly and Tom Brady

A HITMAN has been jailed for life after he was found guilty of shooting dead a father of one as he sat in the passenger seat of a car.

Jonathan Douglas (27) had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Aidan Byrne on February 20, 2010.

The jury heard that Douglas, who has 94 previous convictions including a conviction for dangerous driving causing death, was hired to kill 31-year-old Mr Byrne. Byrne was also working as a gun-for-hire in Dublin.

Byrne was a front-seat passenger in a Toyota Corolla car which was driven by another man to a laneway in Drumalee estate near the North Circular Road.

He had been released from Cloverhill Prison two weeks before his murder after being granted bail on a charge related to the theft of electrical goods.

He wore a bullet-proof vest during that period and had been warned by gardai several times that he was under threat from other criminals.

He survived an attempt on his life at Fairview Park in Dublin's north city in 2009 when shots were fired at him and had also been slashed in the face while in prison, receiving 60 stitches for his injuries.

But on the night of his murder he left his vest at home after he agreed to meet an associate, who had contacted him, to discuss the terms of a "business" deal.

Byrne had aligned himself with one of the factions involved in a deadly feud in the north inner city and, according to garda intelligence, had also agreed to act as a gun-for-hire on behalf of major gang bosses.

His behaviour had resulted in a building up of enemies and persistent underworld tip-offs led to the garda warnings that there was a "price" on his head.

He had previously served a five-year jail sentence for raping two prostitutes in a brothel.

One experienced investigator remarked after Byrne's murder: "They were queueing up to kill him".

But the contract was finally taken up by Jonathan Douglas on behalf of a leading city criminal.

The court heard that Douglas, from O'Devaney Gardens in Dublin, waited for the car to arrive at the laneway and walked up to it, firing 10 bullets into the passenger window.

The bullets hit the victim in the chest and in the abdomen.

Mr Byrne was attended to by paramedics who attempted to resuscitate him after he went into cardiac arrest and was brought to the Mater Hospital but he was pronounced dead at 9.24pm.

Gerard Clarke, prosecuting, said Douglas was drinking in Eamon Rea's pub on Parkgate Street in Dublin a short time before the shooting.

"He left the pub suddenly, leaving half a drink behind him, and went to where Mr Byrne was going to be driven to and he was waiting to shoot him," said Mr Clarke.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said Mr Byrne died from multiple gunshot wounds to his body.

He said following a post-mortem, eight of the bullets exited Mr Byrne's body while two remained inside his body.

Gunfire

"The injuries sustained are consistent with someone being shot a number of times while they were seated and there were attempts made by the deceased to turn away from the gunfire," said Dr Curtis.

During the trial, two of the prosecution witnesses retracted their statements which implicated Douglas.

However, Mr Justice Paul Carney allowed their statements to be submitted to the court.

Stacey Douglas, a step-niece of Douglas, and her boyfriend Andrew Sheridan claimed they were in fear of the gardai and "told them what they wanted to hear," so they could go home.

Ms Douglas also claimed gardai threatened that her daughter would be taken away from her.

Both Ms Douglas and Mr Sheridan told gardai the accused called to their house a short time after the shooting and admitted killing Mr Byrne.

They told gardai he showed them the gun, washed himself and then left the house.

The jury of seven men and five women found the accused guilty by a majority verdict of 11-1, following the 11-day trial.

Mr Justice Carney sentenced Douglas immediately after the jury returned its verdict.

The judge remanded him to re-appear before the court next Monday for the deceased man's family to prepare a victim impact report.

Irish Independent

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