THE notorious Dublin hitman Eugene 'Dutchie' Holland almost certainly murdered publican Tom Nevin, whose widow Catherine is due to shortly begin her pre-release parole after spending 12 years in jail for the murder of her husband.
A former senior garda detective, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Sunday Independent last week that the information linking Holland, who died in prison in England three years ago, arose as a result of investigations by the team set up to investigate the murder of Veronica Guerin in 1996. Holland did not figure as a suspect in the actual investigation into Tom Nevin's murder.
The Veronica Guerin investigators quickly identified 'Dutchie' Holland as the gunman who had murdered the journalist but he had fled to England within a month of the murder in June 1996.
The link to the Nevin murder emerged by chance more than a year after Mr Nevin had been shot dead while counting the takings in his pub, Jack White's, in Brittas, Co Wicklow in March 1996.
Holland had a small holiday home near the pub. In April 1997, the team investigating the murder of Veronica Guerin received word that a man and woman had arrived at the house and a squad of cars containing armed detectives drove from Lucan garda station, which was the centre of the Guerin investigation, to Wicklow to arrest Holland.
In the house they found a woman and an English man who had apparently changed from men's clothing into women's clothes. Gardai believed Holland had sent the two people to Brittas to test whether or not he would be arrested if he returned to Ireland. At the time, Holland was in contact with RTE and was intent on publicly stating his innocence of the murder. He had a meeting with Pat Kenny in London to discuss this.
Holland did return a month later, in disguise. He was stopped at Dublin Port by Garda Marian Cusack who saw through his disguise. Holland was in a car coming off the Holyhead ferry with a young woman and a child.
When Holland was brought to Lucan garda station and searched, gardai found tiny transmitters in his shoes, belt and underpants. He had intended taping the interviews with gardai and playing these back on RTE to undermine the garda investigation. The attempt failed and RTE did not broadcast any interview.
After Holland was arrested and charged with importation of cannabis, the Lucan detectives were contacted by a regular from Jack White's pub who recognised Holland from pictures in the press and recalled that Holland used to drink on his own on occasions in the bar. He said that others in the pub had known of Holland's criminal past and his reputation as a gunman. They had pointed him out to Catherine Nevin, dubbed the Black Widow after her conviction for the murder of her husband, the man told gardai.
Around the same time, the gardai investigating the Nevin murder had already gathered enough strong circumstantial evidence that Catherine Nevin had solicited at least three other men to murder her husband. The three gave compelling evidence in court and Nevin was convicted of murder and soliciting others to commit murder. Holland never figured in the court case.
A former senior garda detective said last week that the conviction and life sentence made any further investigation redundant. They believe she commissioned Holland to commit the murder and stage it as though it had been a robbery. On the night of March 19, 1996, Mr Nevin was shot dead at point-blank range with a shotgun. The killer made off with an estimated £13,000 in takings. Gardai believe he was also paid a further substantial amount of money.
Despite his earnings from his work for John Gilligan's gang and from selling cocaine and cannabis, Holland never became wealthy and this, gardai believed, was why he was amenable to the request to carry out the murder of Tom Nevin on the basis of a casual encounter and contract. "He used to sit in the corner like an old man over a pint. Some of the locals found out who he was and told Catherine. She had no idea she had the top hitman in the country drinking in her own bar. She had been running round trying to get fellas to kill the husband," the retired detective said.
After his release from prison in 2006, Holland returned to a life of crime and became involved with criminal contacts in London in a plot to kidnap an Asian businessman. He was arrested and given an eight-year jail term in May 2009. He died in June 2009 in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight.
Last week, as news broke of Nevin's pre-release parole to attend a college course, Mr Nevin's family were again forced to relive their loss. Noel Nevin said his family had not been informed that Catherine Nevin, now 61, was to be freed. He said his family had been hurt to read about the release in the media without being told in advance.
Mrs Nevin has served 12 years in the Dochas Centre but is expected to be given temporary release from prison in the coming weeks. The Parole Board has recommended that she should be considered for day release to undertake a course.
In a "statement of clarification" last week, Justice Minister Alan Shatter, said that he had not made any decision on granting temporary release. "Recommendations have been made concerning attendance on an educational course but no decision has been made at this point in time," he said.