'Fat' Freddie Thompson, one-time leader of a ruthless Dublin drugs gang, is now believed to be under very serious threat of assassination following the murder of his former associate and friend, Gary Hutch, in Spain.
Hutch (33) was shot dead at an apartment complex near Malaga last Thursday, after being identified by the main Irish drugs mafia as a police informant.
He was blamed in particular, sources say, for providing information that led to two major seizures of heroin and cocaine earlier this year.
The exposure of Hutch as an informant (he is believed to have been working for both the Spanish and Dutch police), has again raised concerns among gardai about the security of police intelligence following major changes made several years ago over 'agent handling' in this jurisdiction.
The process of informant or agent handling by gardai changed almost a decade ago, in the wake of the report by Mr Justice Frederick Morris into policing in Donegal.
One of the judge's recommendations, which has had a major negative impact on the investigation of serious organised crime here, was the decision to remove the handling of informants from individual gardai and create a system known as CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Resources), whereby informants must be passed to a cadre of largely inexperienced gardai in centralised divisional offices.
This, sources say, has rendered the entire system of intelligence-gathering from criminal sources ineffective, allowing one major gang to dominate the drugs trade into Ireland and also to become the major source of cocaine and heroin into Britain. It was the interception of a shipment of drugs transiting through the Republic into the UK that is believed to have led to Gary Hutch's murder.
Hutch had been on the run for most of this year, moving between Holland and Spain with irregular visits home to Dublin.
More than 200 gang-related murders, mainly in Dublin and Spain, have gone undetected in the past decade and the major Irish gang have been able to continue their murderous activities in controlling, and protecting, their importation and distribution networks.
The gang believed to have murdered Hutch is responsible for at least half those murders. It is suspected of hiring professional killers to carry out 'hits' on their behalf, including one from Dublin, now serving time in prison, who is suspected of carrying out at least 14 murders.
Gary Hutch, a nephew of the Dubliner Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, had been involved in serious crime since his teens, with a history of involvement in armed robbery, 'tiger' kidnappings and aggravated burglary. At least two previous attempts were made on his life. The first was in Estepona in Spain in February 2008, when gunmen opened fire on his car killing his associate Paddy Doyle. In another attempt on his life, in August last year, an innocent bystander was injured when gunmen again opened fire on Hutch.
Freddie Thompson was in Doyle and Hutch's company in Estepona when Doyle was murdered. Sources say that there are now major concerns over Thompson's safety. He left Ireland immediately after being released from Mountjoy prison after serving a 15-month term for violent disorder arising from a pub brawl in south inner Dublin in January 2013. It is believed Thompson travelled to Birmingham and is in hiding in the Midlands area.
Gary Hutch was living at an apartment at Miraflores outside Malaga. On Wednesday, the assassin arrived on a motorcycle and chased him from a garage to the communal swimming pool area and shot him dead.