Sunday 22 September 2019

Man arrested over murder of leading bookie is suspect in gruesome 2016 killing

Gardaí believe rogue Provisional IRA terrorists were behind bookmaker's death

Brian and Bernadette Fox, the brother and widow of Dessie Fox, left, lay a wreath at the scene of his murder at Healy’s Bridge near Prosperous, Co Kildare
Brian and Bernadette Fox, the brother and widow of Dessie Fox, left, lay a wreath at the scene of his murder at Healy’s Bridge near Prosperous, Co Kildare
Dessie Fox

Robin Schiller and Tom Brady

A man arrested over the unsolved murder of Dessie Fox 28 years ago is also a chief suspect in one of the country's most gruesome killings.

Detectives are continuing to question two men, aged 50 and 61, who were arrested yesterday morning in relation to the murder of the bookmaker.

One of the leading players in the betting ring, Mr Fox was shot dead in an ambush near Prosperous as he was driving across north Kildare to the Curragh races on September 30, 1990. Gardaí believe rogue Provisional IRA terrorists were responsible for the murder.

The two suspects were being held last night at Naas and Leixlip garda stations.

The Irish Independent can reveal that one of the men arrested is also the chief suspect in a horrific murder carried out in the east of the country.

The killing - the details of which cannot be disclosed for legal reasons - was carried out in 2016 and led to a significant Garda investigation. This individual was previously quizzed in relation to this murder.

Yesterday morning, he was arrested over the Fox murder at a west Dublin prison, and brought to Leixlip garda station for questioning.

A 61-year-old man currently being quizzed by detectives is believed to have organised the ambush and murder of Mr Fox.

This individual was only recently released from jail and has been convicted of IRA membership, as well as firearms offences dating back to the 1980s.

It is understood that this man has lived in the capital for some years, but is originally from Northern Ireland.

The arrests were the culmination of inquiries over the past few years and the gathering of information and intelligence to build up a picture of those believed to be involved.

Both men are well known to gardaí and have been linked in the past to republican-related terrorism. Neither had been arrested previously in connection with the Fox murder. Both men can be detained for a period of up to three days.

Gardaí have described the most recent arrests in the investigation as significant.

They bring the total number of arrests up to 19, with the other 17 taking place in the early stages of the investigation. A total of 500 statements have been taken and more than 1,500 people interviewed.

The breakthrough came following inquiries by gardaí in the Kildare division, supported by detectives from the force's cold-case unit, known as the serious crime review team.

Mr Fox, who was from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, was ambushed and robbed by a gang at Healy's Bridge, near Prosperous, Co Kildare, where his car was forced to stop. The 47-year-old was shot in the thigh but the bullet severed an artery and he bled to death at the scene.

"Investigating gardaí continue to appeal for information in this case and believe that a number of people have yet to come forward who may now be in a position to assist in bringing those responsible to justice," a spokesman said yesterday.

Lorna O'Mahony, Mr Fox's daughter, who was 15 at the time of the murder, has said the lives of her mother and sisters had been shattered by his death.

"We lost so much that day, and so did my dad. He has missed seeing us grow up, start jobs, get married, and have our own children, his grandchildren. We believe there are people out there who know what happened to my dad," she said.

Sporadic appeals to the public for help were made over the years and the file remained open as officers from Kildare continued to build up a case.

The gang chose Healy's Bridge, near Prosperous in Kildare, to ambush Mr Fox as he drove to the Curragh with £20,000 in a bag to fund his activities in the betting ring.

The gang forced his car to a halt and as he tried to reverse one of them fired a shot from a handgun into the passenger door of his car and he was left to die at the scene as the killers made their getaway.

Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin said the arrests showed the determination of gardaí to keep inquiries alive after more than 27 years. He said: "We've got a very experienced and well-equipped serious crime review team who look at these cases and assist local investigators in the context of developments, including help from members of the community who may remember something, recall something or maybe have a change of mind in relation to co-operating with gardaí."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Naas garda station at 045 884300, or the confidential phone line 1800 666111.

Irish Independent

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