Friday 17 November 2017

Irish gangland killers turning Costa del Sol into 'Wild West'

Shocking murder of innocent dad at holiday resort in Spain just the latest in a litany of ruthless killings there by Irish gangsters

Shane Coates (left) and Stephen Sugg
Shane Coates (left) and Stephen Sugg
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

Four months ago the Spanish daily newspaper La Vanguardia predicted correctly that the Dublin gang feud would spill over into Spain this summer.

It summarised the tit-for-tat killings beginning in Spain last year, leading to the Regency Hotel attack in Dublin and its bloody aftermath and said the Irish 'mafia' were turning Andalusia into a 'Wild West'.

The city of Malaga on Spain’s Costa del Sol
The city of Malaga on Spain’s Costa del Sol

The murder of innocent Trevor O'Neill (41), gunned down in front of his partner Suzanne Power and their three children, reinforces the view in Spain that Irish gangsters are out of control and visiting their bloodshed on Spanish holiday resorts.

Since moving to Spain and establishing their drugs business in 2001, the Kinahan mob and their associates have been responsible for over 200 murders, at least eight of them in Spain and a handful in Holland.

The first notable victims of the Kinahan cartel in Spain were the criminal partners Stephen Sugg (27) and Shane Coates (31), who had built up a major drugs network based in northwest Dublin during the 1990s, murdering a number of rivals in the process.

By 2003, gardai had successfully mounted a series of operations against Sugg and Coates' gang and the two fled to Spain after a shoot-out with gardai in Co Meath. They disappeared in early 2004 and their bodies were found concreted under a garage floor in a suburb of Alicante in July 2006. Coates and Sugg's associate Richard Keogh (30) also fled Ireland after an attempt on his life at the house he had bought for him, his partner and child in Duleek, Co Meath, in November 2007. Keogh moved to Spain and was in the process of setting up a drugs supply route in competition with the Kinahan gang when he was shot 10 times in Benalmadena in January 2009.

Richard Keogh. picture credit: RTE
Richard Keogh. picture credit: RTE

The gang and drugs supply route established by Coates, Sugg, Keogh and other associates had grown substantially during the early period of the economic 'boom' in Ireland and led them into competition with the Kinahans. Their business was taken over firstly by local rivals and then, after a series of murders in the Finglas-Ballymun-Co Meath area, by the Kinahan cartel's main lieutenant in Dublin, Eamon Dunne. Dunne was suspected of ordering some 20 murders, half of them carried out by one assassin, a man from south inner city Dublin who used fake identities to travel between Dublin and Spain.

Read more: Fear on the streets as dangerous hitman returns to Dublin from Costa del Sol

Read more: Close co-operation with Spain's police is part of Garda strategy for 'inevitable' demise of gangs

Gardai believe Sugg and Coates were convinced that they could receive shelter and work alongside the Kinahans, unaware that the cartel was intent on not only taking over their business but also establishing a drugs supply hegemony in Dublin and all of Ireland, north and south.

Gary Hutch
Gary Hutch

Around the same time that the Sugg and Coates gang, known as the Westies, were being wiped out, the major Cork trafficker Michael 'Dancer' Ahern (38), based in southern Portugal, was also murdered. Ahern was shot dead and his body stuffed in a freezer at an apartment in Albufiera in September 2005. Ahern was killed as a result of a drunken row but his business was subsumed into the Kinahan operations, gardai say.

Another Dublin gang figure, Christy Gilroy (28), was murdered the month after Richard Keogh was killed in Spain, he had also fled Ireland due to fears he would be murdered at home.

Gilroy was from Dublin's north inner city and had been linked to the murder of two men, Michael 'Roly' Cronin (35) and James Maloney (26), who were shot as they sat in a car at Summerhill, Dublin, in January 2009.

Local people said Gilroy feared he was being blamed for 'setting up' Cronin and Maloney and fled the country. It is known he arrived in Spain but disappeared very soon afterwards. The whereabouts of his body has never been established.

Gardai and Spanish police believe members of the Kinahan cartel, specifically members of a family with a record of sexual abuse and violence, were responsible for the murder of the still-missing Irish teenager Amy Fitzpatrick in Calahona in January 2008. Amy (15) disappeared after leaving a New Year's party.

Another Irish gang figure 'disappeared' in Spain is John McKeown (48), who is believed to have been secretly buried after being murdered at an apartment in Torrevieja near Alicante in January 2007.

McKeown left Ireland to escape the attention of gardai and to avoid seizure of his assets by CAB. Relatives and friends carried out searches and made repeated pleas for information about him without success.

McKeown, known as 'The Mexican' due to his swarthy complexion and handlebar moustache, was never heard of again.

A certain amount of mystery still surrounds the murder of Kinahan gang associate Paddy Doyle (27), who was shot dead in Marbella in February 2008. Doyle was in the company of Gary Hutch and Freddie Thompson at the time he was killed by automatic fire as he sat in a BMW 4X4. One rumour that circulated at the time was that Doyle had 'disrespected' members of the Turkish mafia who are the main suppliers of Afghan heroin into Europe and who have bases in the Costa del Sol. However, gardai believe Doyle was murdered by the Kinahan cartel rather than the Turks.

Doyle was a friend since childhood of Gary Hutch and gardai believe that it was his murder that may have led Hutch to turn on his associates and begin supplying information to Spanish authorities about the Kinahan operations.

In the period from 2008 onwards, the Kinahan operation suffered repeated major losses of drugs shipments, guns and assets, with Spanish police sources estimating they had seized more than €50m worth of drugs from the 'Irlandesas'.

Gary Hutch was linked to the September 2014 assassination of Gerard 'Jaws' Kavanagh (44) at a bar in Elviria outside Marbella.

Again, there are conflicting accounts over Kavanagh's murder, including one that he was murdered after failing to collect a €1m debt from dealers in Dublin for the Kinahan cartel.

However, there were later indications that Gary Hutch might have blamed Kavanagh for involvement in the murder of his friend Paddy Doyle, and felt he was also in danger of being murdered by the Kinahan gang 'enforcer'.

Kavanagh's brother Paul (36) was shot dead in Drumcondra, north Dublin, in March of last year. At the time it was rumoured that he too was murdered because he had 'inherited' his brother's debt to the Kinahan cartel. It remains unclear why both Kavanaghs were murdered, however.

Jaws Kavanagh had close ties to the MGM boxing gym in Marbella, run by the Kinahans, where his son Jamie, who has no criminal ties, was signed as one of the club's lead fighters in 2015.

Jamie was on stage at the Regency Hotel weigh-in in February when the Hutch gang launched their assault on the Kinahans in an attempt to murder Christy's son, Daniel, who was in the hotel.

There is now speculation in Dublin that the two Kavanaghs' murders are linked to the outbreak of the Regency-related 'feud', which has largely consisted of a series of assassinations of anyone associated with the Hutch gang.

The murder of 34-year-old Gary Hutch last September after he was chased through an apartment complex in Angel de Miraflores outside Marbella and shot repeatedly is accepted as the spark that set off the Regency attack.

The 'feud' has become a one-way street, with the Kinahan cartel responsible for 11 murders since the February 5 attack in the Regency Hotel.

The Hutch gang, Garda sources and local sources in inner city Dublin say, is being crushed out of existence.

Read more: Kinahan enforcer Paul Rice turns home into fortress following death threat

Read more: Gardai hunt for Kinahan cartel henchman who has been on the run for eight years

The northside gang's supply of drugs from Spain has been cut off and Hutch associates have been living in fear for their lives since the relentless revenge campaign for the murder of David Byrne at the Regency began with the murder of Eddie Hutch Snr, Gerry Hutch's 59-year-old brother, at his home in north inner city Dublin three days after the hotel attack.

It is believed the Kinahan gang assassin who last week shot dead Mr O'Neill in front of his partner and children was intent on murdering another member of the Hutch family, Jonathan, whose brother Gareth (38) was gunned down outside his home in the north inner city in May. Sources in Majorca say Jonathan Hutch contacted Spanish police shortly after the murder of Mr O'Neill and told them he believed he was the intended target.

Spanish police sources were reported in the Majorca newspaper Ultima Hora as saying Hutch told them he had been chatting to Mr O'Neill, whom he had met for the first time earlier in the week, shortly before the murder.

Mr O'Neill is the second innocent victim of the feud killed in error. On April 14, 26-year-old Martin O'Rourke was shot dead in another case of mistaken identity at Sheriff Street in Dublin.

Garda sources in Dublin said in the aftermath of Mr O'Neill's murder that they "guessed it was only a matter of time" before another innocent victim fell foul of the Kinahan cartel's campaign to eradicate their rivals. Gardai are aware that Kinahan associates in the city have been engaged in what is almost a competition to strike at anyone associated with the Hutch family.

They also predicted that the murder of an innocent man on holiday with his family would not deter the killers. "They want to frighten everybody. That's their game. They want everyone to fear them. They don't care who's innocent and who's guilty," one Dublin detective said.

Asked if gardai expected the killings would continue, the source replied: "There's no doubt about that."

Sunday Independent

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