Monday 17 June 2019

Gardaí probe if gangland victim was killed for letting hitman stay in home

Extra armed units on patrol amid fears of further attacks over Christmas

Flowers laid at the scene of the murder
Flowers laid at the scene of the murder
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

Detectives are investigating if the country's latest gangland victim was shot dead after providing logistical support to an Estonian hitman who had conspired to murder James 'Mago' Gately.

Eric Fowler (34) was shot dead three days before Christmas outside his home in Blakestown Cottages, Clonsilla, Dublin. The victim was blasted multiple times as he was leaving his home shortly before 7pm on Saturday.

Senior gardaí have now moved to have extra armed units patrol the area over fears that further attacks could be carried out over Christmas.

A number of possible motives are being probed, including that it is directly linked to his involvement in the plot to murder Hutch associate Gately.

Sources have revealed that Eric Fowler provided logistical support to the Estonian hitman Imre Arakas when he arrived in the country ahead of the planned murder.

"Fowler was tasked with picking Arakas up, bringing him to his property and letting him stay there ahead of the plot to shoot James Gately in Northern Ireland," a source said.

Eric Fowler holding a gun
Eric Fowler holding a gun
Eric Fowler

Arakas was lying on a bed in Eric Fowler's Blakestown home when it was raided by members of the heavily armed Emergency Response Unit (ERU) in March of last year.

The Estonian was jailed for six years last month in relation to the Gately murder conspiracy.

Gardaí are now probing if Saturday night's killing was retaliation carried out by the Hutch mob - or if it was an 'internal clear-out' by the Kinahan cartel.

"As with most investigations these days, it is fluid because the victim had various criminal connections. A link to the feud is the most likely, but not the only possibility at this stage," a source said.

James ‘Mago’ Gately
James ‘Mago’ Gately

Fowler also had connections to criminals involved in the Finglas feud. The getaway car used in his killing, a silver Volkswagen Jetta, 06-MH-3192, was bought just five days before the murder in a 'person-to-person' purchase.

Two gunmen are believed to have been involved in the shooting and may have lain in wait for their target for over an hour before the shooting.

The getaway car was found burnt out in nearby Rusheeney Crescent, Clonsilla, just minutes after Fowler had been shot dead outside his home. It was being forensically examined by members of the Garda Technical Bureau yesterday before being removed from the scene.

Supt Liam Carolan, of Blanchardstown Garda station, said extra armed gardaí would be patrolling the area following the killing.

The burnt-out Volkswagen Jetta found in the wake of Saturday’s shooting
The burnt-out Volkswagen Jetta found in the wake of Saturday’s shooting

He also appealed for witnesses or anyone with information to come forward.

He said: "It is early days in the investigation. The main tasks today are harvesting CCTV and that should give us some indication. There are a number of strands in the investigation. We are not going to focus on just one but clearly organised crime is an avenue.

"But there could be multiple other reasons, so several avenues will be explored.

"We are putting in place a number of armed patrols over Christmas in the area and high-visibility policing to reassure the community that there will be a presence on the ground and to allay those fears."

Asked if there were fears of retaliation, Supt Carolan said: "Well, in all of these it is a possibility. The main thing is the community know the gardaí are protecting them in the aftermath of this incident."

Estonian hitman Imre Arakas
Estonian hitman Imre Arakas

Eric Fowler had 10 previous convictions and was only before the court two weeks before his murder.

On December 5, he appeared before Blanchardstown District Court, where he was banned from driving for two years after being convicted of drink driving.

As part of the current investigation, gardaí are appealing for information on a silver Volkswagen Jetta bearing the registration plate 06-MH-3192.

This car, which was bought on December 18, was found burnt out at Rusheeney Crescent, Clonsilla, shortly after the murder.

Supt Liam Carolan said: "At approximately 7pm, gardaí responded to a call of a shooting at Blakestown Cottages.

"They arrived very shortly after and found a male in his 30s lying in the driveway of one of the cottages.

"He had been shot multiple times and was pronounced dead at the scene."

Gardaí want to speak to anyone who was in the vicinity of Blakestown Cottages, Blakestown Road, Hartstown Park and St Peregrines GAA Club between 5pm and 7pm on Saturday.

Irish Independent

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