Sunday 19 November 2017

Unsolved gang killings top 100 in two divisions

Witness intimidation a major factor as latest victim and brother slain after giving evidence

John O'Regan, inset, who was shot dead as he cycled to work. Main: Garda forensic officers at the crime scene.
John O'Regan, inset, who was shot dead as he cycled to work. Main: Garda forensic officers at the crime scene.
Murder map
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

The two garda divisions covering west Dublin and north Dublin – the scene of last week's breakfast-time gun slaying – have around 100 unsolved gang-related murders between them.

The northern division, which includes Ballymun where John O'Regan, 48, was gunned down last Tuesday morning, has had no fewer than 34 gangland murders in the past two decades. Just two have been followed by convictions.

John O'Regan's murder compounds the biggest problem gardai have in investigating gang-related murders – witness intimidation. He and his brother Willie gave evidence against a Ballymun gang following the murder of a man in April 2003 and Willie, 33, was shot dead two months later at his home.

John O'Regan, a father of a grown son, continued to suffer death threats and intimidation ever since giving evidence in the case. These became so severe that last year he acquired a shotgun to defend his home. The weapon was seized by gardai and a file sent to the DPP.

The same gang that murdered his brother is believed to have paid a hitman to shoot him dead as he cycled to work.

Gardai believe the murder of the second of the innocent O'Regan brothers was meant as a signal to anyone who might be considering giving evidence against gangs.

The failure to secure the safety of witnesses is a factor in almost all the unsolved gang murders, resulting in less than 10 per cent ever coming to trial.

The western garda division, which covers Finglas where O'Regan grew up, has some 70 unsolved gang-related murders. The "detection" rate in this division is also less than 10 per cent.

The two divisions combined account for two-thirds of the 150 or so unsolved murders since gun murders began in Dublin in the mid-Nineties.

Four of the five gang murders in the State this year have taken place in the northern and western garda Dublin divisions. James Talbot, 46, was shot dead at Abbeywood Court in Lucan; Stephen 'Dougie' Moran, also 46, was shot at his home in Lucan, both in the western division; and Declan Smyth, 31, and John O'Regan were both murdered in the northern division.

The fifth victim, Michael Devoy, 42, lived in Ballymun but was murdered in Tallaght in south Dublin.

Finglas has some 30 unsolved gang murders, believed to be the highest figure for any single district in the country. The area has been quiet over the past three years as some of those responsible for murders were themselves killed and a number of others jailed for other offences.

Coolock is the next worst district with some 24 unsolved murders. Clondalkin district, in the western division, has some 19 outstanding murder cases involving gang killings.

Garda sources in the northern and western divisions say that, aside from witness intimidation, murder investigations are not properly resourced, though the majority of unsolved murders happened prior to the sharp cuts on overtime following the economic collapse of 2008.

John O'Regan, a window cleaner, was not involved in any form of organised crime. He had assisted gardai on a number of occasions and had provided witness evidence in relation to two killings. He and his brother provided witness evidence in relation to the murder of 25-year-old Michael Scott who was shot dead in front of his two children in one of the Ballymun flats in April 2003.

Willie O'Regan was shot dead in June 2003 after he made a statement to gardai. His brother's testimony led to the trial of 24-year-old Declan Curran for Scott's murder, but this collapsed in 2004 as a result of the intimidation of other witnesses following Willie O'Regan's murder. Curran died from a drugs overdose in prison in November 2004. Another suspect in the murder was killed in a motorcycle accident.

John O'Regan also gave evidence in relation to the fatal assault on another Ballymun man, Gregory Rowan, 44, who was beaten to death in August 2006. There were threats to his life over both these cases, but O'Regan was said to have been determined to see justice done because of his brother's murder.

He had recently received threats and on one occasion was attacked by an associate of Declan Curran.

John O'Regan was shot dead shortly after leaving his home and as he was cycling along Gateway Avenue at 8.45am on Tuesday. His killer, wearing a baseball cap and a high-visibility jacket, was also riding a bike. O'Regan was struck by four bullets, one of which severed an artery in his leg and he bled to death.

Sunday Independent

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