Paul Williams: 'Gerry 'the Monk' Hutch is running for his life but isn't prepared to go down without a fight'
When Gerry 'the Monk Hutch' sat down to hatch the most audacious – and pivotal - criminal escapade of his three decade-long career, he should have devoted a little more time to pondering the possible consequences of his impending spectacular.
Cops and villains alike have always begrudgingly acknowledged the shrewd, enigmatic gangster’s obvious skills as a criminal mastermind – the modus operandi of his big armed heists involved total secrecy and meticulous, military-style planning.
Every stage of the robbery – from the initial surveillance on the target to the actual robbery and get-away, and the laundering of the loot later - would be timed down to the second and nothing was ever left to chance.
Hutch ran a tight, loyal team of hoodlums he had grown up with on the streets of the north inner-city, men who trusted each other with their lives, and accepted his judgement as inviolable, which explained why the police never caught them on a job.
Hutch was just 24 in January 1987 when he was catapulted into the big league of the burgeoning Irish underworld after his crew robbed £1.3 million (€1.6 million) from a security van in Marino Mart on Dublin’s north side.
And in January 1995 the Monk’s mob again made the gangland history books when they robbed £2.8 million (€3.5 million) in a daring heist from a cash holding facility in north county Dublin.
But while those big robberies put him on the gangland map, it will be his most audacious and infamous crime, the attack at the Regency Hotel that will be remembered as one of the most spectacularly fatal miscalculations in gangland history.
Three years and up to 18 murders later, including those of his brother, three nephews and two best pals, Gerry Hutch, the once revered criminal mastermind, is running for his life with his former friends and associates in the Kinahan cartel offering a €1 million bounty for his head.
The unprecedented warfare between the two tribes shows no signs of abating and the term Kinahan/Hutch feud is as familiar now in our social discourse as the term Brexit.
And with top gardai admitting that they see no end in sight for this unbalanced feud, surely the wily Monk must be regretting that he didn’t spend more time ruminating before he attempted the Irish equivalent of the St Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The collapse of the prosecution case against his nephew Patrick Hutch this week for the alleged murder of drug dealer David Byrne in the Regency attack will be greeted as something of a morale booster for the Hutch clan.
But Patrick’s is a pyrrhic victory when one considers the ferocious backlash unleashed by the Kinahans in the wake of Bryne’s slaying – so far they have murdered up to 16 people, including two totally innocent men, while the Hutch side are blamed for two killings.
Garda intelligence sources say that the Kinahans and their top associates, including David Byrne’s brother Liam, are as determined as ever to keep drawing blood until they have eliminated the heads of the Hutch clan.
Along with his uncle and his dad, Patrick Hutch is one of the top three targets of the Kinahans: he is a dead man walking who is probably only still alive because he was remanded in custody in a safe and secure prison cell for the past two years.
However sources close to the Monk say that his only regret following the Regency attack is that he did not succeed in killing Daniel Kinahan and his most senior lieutenants.
They say he no longer fears death and has long ago accepted that he will not pass away quietly in his sleep at a ripe old age, having enjoyed his OAP’s free travel pass for at least a decade or two.
But his supporters say that the Monk is not prepared to go out without a fight and will bring some of the opposition down with him.
Hutch's motives for mounting the attack on February 5 have been well documented by now but they are worth recalling: he wanted revenge for the murder of his nephew Gary Hutch; and to draw first blood after it became clear that the notoriously perfidious Daniel Kinahan, had already made the decision to wipe him out along with his entire family.
A month earlier, on New Year’s Eve, Hutch narrowly escaped a murder bid in a Spanish pub when two Dublin hit men were dispatched to assassinate him.
And so the die was cast and Hutch knew that it was now a case of kill or be killed: he needed to demonstrate a ferocity that would leave his foes begging for peace.
The primary target was to be Daniel Kinahan, the Dapper Don’s son and heir, and at least four of his closest lieutenants.
Kinahan had organised the weigh-in for a WBO European Lightweight title fight between Jamie Kavanagh v Antonio Jao Bento which was due to take place the following day.
Up to a dozen people were involved in the daring plot including the five-member hit team, three of whom wore full police combat fatigues and armed with AK47s.
The extraordinary images captured that afternoon by press photographers went viral around the world and have become part of the iconography of modern organised crime.
It was also a source of huge embarrassment for the Irish State when it emerged that the depleted and under-resourced Garda force had no presence at the hotel even though the event had been widely identified as a possible flash point between the two feuding mobs.
The violence that ensued, especially on the streets of the Hutch’s neighbourhood of north inner-city Dublin has instilled fear in the local population.
The sight of heavily-armed police in paramilitary-style garb backing up their uniformed colleagues and permanent security posts outside the homes of Hutch family members are now the norm as the gardai do all they can to bring an end to the carnage and madness.
And while the collapse of the Hutch trial may represent a setback for the gardai, overall their counteroffensive against the warring mobs has been outstanding.
The fact that over 50 attempted or planned assassinations were foiled by the gardai as a result of top class intelligence work, the number of killings has tailed off significantly.
Potential hit men are now concerned that they are likely to get caught if they take up a contract from the Kinahans, such is the extent to which gardai have penetrated the international organisation.
Since the Regency incident the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (DOCB) have seized drugs worth €150m, as well as €8.4m in cash and 91 firearms recovered.
Dozens of gang members have been arrested and convicted of crimes ranging from drug trafficking, possession of firearms and money laundering to murder and attempted murder.
The Criminal Assets Bureau has also been busy seizing property and cash from the gangs with many drug dealers openly expressing the view that the ongoing warfare has given the gardai the impetus to go after them. They say it is bad for business.
But even before the dramatic turn of events this week, the two gardai leading the crackdown on the feuding mobs, assistant commissioners, Pat Leahy, who is in charge of policing in the Dublin region, and John O'Driscoll, head of special crime operations, were warning that there was no room for complacency and predicted that the fighting is unlikely to end any time soon.
Patrick Hutch’s walking free from court will certainly up the ante considerably with the Kinahans and Byrnes more determined than ever to spill more Hutch blood.
Some observers are worried that this might involve the mob going beyond “accepted boundaries” and unwritten rules of engagement which excluded non-combatants as potential targets.
Until now, the women in the two families were considered off limits but there is a fear that the Kinahans may, in their demented quest for vengeance, resort to going after softer targets.
The harsh truth is that there will be no peace until the likes of Christy Kinahan senior and his ruthless son Daniel and the senior figures in the Hutch clan are either locked up or dead.