Tuesday 23 October 2018

From petty thief to criminal mastermind; The rise of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch

Gerry Hutch
Gerry Hutch

Ken Foy

Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch is one of Ireland’s most recognisable criminal figures. The exiled head of the Hutch clan, he is at the centre of the capital’s savage gangland feud.

He came to public prominence via an extraordinary journey from counter-jumping child thief to the alleged mastermind suspected of being behind some of the biggest heists the country has ever seen.

But where did it all start?

Born into deep and grinding poverty in April 1963, in the capital’s north inner city, he was the youngest in a family of eight children.

The north inner city that Hutch was born into was a grim and extremely poor place and he spent his first years being raised in a rundown tenement-style flat in an area that was hugely overpopulated and where housing conditions were deplorable by any standards.

His dad, Patrick ‘Masher’ Hutch, did what hundreds of his north inner city neighbours did at the time, working as a labourer in Dublin’s docks.

Hutch’s mother Julia was a housewife who did her best in the savagely difficult circumstances that the family found themselves in.

By 1971, with Hutch now eight years old, the family moved to Summerhill.

And even at this early stage, Hutch was starting to become involved in crime.

It started with petty theft but by the time he was a teenager, Hutch had become a key member of the notorious juvenile inner city gang nicknamed the “Bugsy Malones”. The young thugs would jump over bank tellers’ desks and steal money from drawers before dashing out of the bank.

It was not long before the teenage Hutch started to come to the attention of gardai.

According to leading crime journalist Paul Williams – who chronicled Hutch’s criminal career in his book The Untouchables – he notched up more than 30 convictions as a teenager for burglary, assault, larceny, car theft, joyriding and malicious damage.

Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch
Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch

He was sentenced to detention 11 times and served his sentences in industrial schools, later  “graduating” to Mountjoy Prison.

It has been claimed that he was given his ‘Monk’ nickname while in jail because of his quiet, highly secretive and serious manner.

His gang of young hoodlums developed such a reputation that Hutch was interviewed by RTE radio at the age of 16.

He said: “I can’t give up robbing. If I see money in a car I’m taking it. I just can’t leave it there. If I see a handbag on a seat I’ll smash the window and be away before anyone knows what’s going on.

“I don’t go near people walking down the street. They’re not worth robbing’.”

When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said with a giggle: “I’d like to be serving behind the bank. Just fill up the bags and jump over the counter.”

Years later in one of her last major crime stories before being shot dead, ‘The Monk’ told tragic crime journalist Veronica Guerin: “ We were kids then, doing jump-overs (jumping over counters in banks to steal cash), shoplifting, robberies, burglaries. Anything that was going, we did it. That was normal for any inner-city kid then.”

A decade ago in The Monk’s last media interview, Hutch told RTE crime correspondent Paul Reynolds he came from a poor background and there “was nothing around” as a boy.

“I mean first up, best dressed. Yeah, I had no choice. You had to get into crime to feed yourself, never mind dress yourself.”

He was sent to prison at 15 and said it was like “going to college for criminals”.

Gerry The Monk Hutch in a still taken from RTE's Prime Time.
Gerry The Monk Hutch in a still taken from RTE's Prime Time.

“I have a kid now of 15 and I look at the kid and I say ‘My God, when I was 15, I was in prison’. I mean, I was in prison with murderers, rapists, bank robbers, everything.

“I’ll agree I done wrong but I think the severity of being put into Mountjoy Prison, at that age, it was like going to college for criminals,” he explained.

Hutch was aged 20 when he was last sent to prison in September 1983, when he was given a two-year jail stretch for a malicious damage offence.

The then prolific criminal seems to have “wised-up” by the time he was released in May, 1985, and is suspected of turning his attention to far bigger and more serious criminal enterprises.

After all, unlike many of the criminals that ‘The Monk’ had grown up with, he never succumbed to the scourge of drug addiction as a heroin epidemic destroyed his north inner city heartland throughout the 1980s.

Instead, he surrounded himself with loyal and trusted associates who are believed to have taken part in some of the most infamous heists in the history of the State.

This was a time when a number of armed robbers were shot dead by gardai. Former head of the Criminal Assets Bureau, Felix McKenna, gave an insight into Hutch’s state of mind during this period.

He changed his MO (modus operandi) after that and became very secretive. He adopted a complete change of attitude and became one of those masterminds who plan robberies,” Mr McKenna told the 2008 TV3 series Dirty Money.

“As the years progressed, his inner circle built up intelligence and timings about when and where large cash deliveries would be made and where vans would be at particular times,” Mr McKenna added.

In 1987, at a time when the mob led by slain Martin ‘The General’ Cahill was the most high-profile gang in the country, Hutch’s crew robbed £1.3m (€1.6m) from a security van at Marino Mart on the capital’s northside.

It was a truly spectacular heist at that time and Hutch, then aged 24, became a huge target for gardai, who had little success in stopping him.

In the years after that, ‘The Monk’ was suspected of involvement in a number of major robberies, including a Brinks Allied heist in Clonshaugh, Dublin, in 1995, in which a gang’s seizure of IR£3m in cash was a record amount at the time.

The money was later laundered through construction projects at the beginning of the country’s building boom.

Despite being arrested in the cases, ‘The Monk’ has always denied involvement in both of these heists and was never prosecuted in relation to them.

For years, gardai did everything in their power in an attempt to snare Hutch but the highly intelligent criminal was always one step ahead of the officers on his tail, managing to maintain his freedom despite their close attentions.

But that was to change with the setting up of the Criminal Assets Bureau, and tomorrow we will outline how ‘The Monk’ even managed to get the better of this agency, despite having to pay out €1.5m.

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