Decision to visit friend in prison cost father his life
Gardai fear Darren Falsey's gangland-style hit may be linked to a spiralling extortion racket
When Darren Falsey decided to change his social plans last Wednesday, it was a decision that would ultimately cost the father of two his life.
Instead of going hunting as he originally planned, Mr Falsey, 37, decided to visit a friend in Cork Prison and then return alone to his rented Ashbourne Court home in Carrigaline at 2pm.
Unknown to Mr Falsey, his house had been under surveillance for several days and his killer had most likely stalked him back from Cork to Carrigaline.
His partner Lorraine and her child returned to the house just 45 minutes later and the horrified woman found her partner lying in a pool of blood.
Mr Falsey had been shot twice in the torso -- and his killer then apparently stood over him and fired a third execution shot into his head as he lay between the hallway and the sitting room.
The victim had opened the front door to his killer -- and then made a vain attempt to flee when he realised the danger he faced.
Gardai have now stepped up security operations around Cork city amid fears that Mr Falsey's death could be linked to a spiralling extortion campaign being waged by dissident republicans against major drug gangs.
But privately, senior detectives also say the killing could be linked to a personal debt owed to a major Cork criminal.
Their greatest fear is that Mr Falsey's killing was sparked by his refusal to pay protection money to a dissident republican gang.
Sources have put the extortion demand at between €50,000 and €80,000.
Last year, the Real IRA issued a list of individuals who it claims were involved in the drugs trade in the greater Cork area and threatened to kill them.
In January 2010 Gerard 'Topper' Staunton was gunned down outside his Wilton home in an ambush-style killing virtually identical to that of Mr Falsey.
Staunton had been due to appear on charges before Cork Circuit Criminal Court just weeks later.
He was callously shot in front of his shocked partner and her two young children with gardai initially suspecting the killing was linked to a drug debt.
However, the Real IRA later claimed responsibility for the killing -- a claim detectives are now treating as very serious -- in a move which was most likely linked to the dissident cell's drive to expand operations in Cork and recruit young members.
Fatally, it appears that Mr Falsey didn't take the threat against himself too seriously as he didn't have any personal protection and had not installed security cameras at his home.
Mr Falsey -- linked to one of Cork's biggest southside drugs gangs -- had outwardly been his normal gregarious, sport-loving self over the past fortnight.
An avid Munster rugby fan and also a soccer fan, he had been telling his friends he couldn't wait for the start of the Rugby World Cup next month.
Neighbours said Mr Falsey was a regular figure in Carrigaline pubs and bookies for major rugby and soccer events.
Gardai are investigating whether the former schools rugby player was the focus of a chilling extortion campaign and if he had been sent a bullet in the post last month just to underline the scale of the threat he faced if he didn't pay up.
Mr Falsey's murder is the sixth gangland-style killing in Cork since 1995.
While Cork has consistently prided itself on its status as one of Ireland's safest cities, the latest drug-related killing belies that claim.
Of the six gangland-style killings in Cork over the past 16 years, four have involved victims being ambushed in or near their homes.
The murders -- all of which remain unsolved -- include Michael Crinnion (1995); Kieran O'Flynn (2001); Eric Cummins (2005); David 'Boogie' Brett (2007); Gerard 'Topper' Staunton (2010) and now Mr Falsey.
O'Flynn was shot through the front door of his own home, Cummins was shot as he got out of his car and attempted to open his front door, while Staunton was killed seconds after stepping out of his home.
The scale of the murders may pale in comparison to those committed in Limerick and Dublin, but the Cork slayings all have the hallmarks of professional killings carried out after methodical planning.
Only the murder of Staunton appeared slightly different, with the killer bizarrely using an 18-year old Toyota Liteace as the getaway vehicle instead of a freshly stolen BMW, Mercedes or Volvo.
Security analysts credit the killing of drug gang enforcer Crinnion outside the Clannad Bar on Barrack Street in Cork city centre as the first in the wave of gangland killings that swept through Dublin, Limerick and Cork as the cocaine and cannabis trade soared in value.
Gardai fear that dissident republicans view the drugs trade and the extortion of drugs figures as a key future source of revenue.
Seven people were arrested last January as part of a garda probe into dissident activities in the greater Cork area.
The detentions followed a chilling execution threat levelled against a drug dealer in his mid-30s -- not Mr Falsey -- who had previously been attacked by dissident republicans.
Detectives are worried that dissident cells are operating under a new, more militant leadership determined to ramp up revenue, volunteer numbers and access to firearms and explosives.
Their nightmare is that the killing of Mr Falsey may just be the opening chapter in a bloody war between powerful drug gangs and cash-starved dissident republican cells.