Sunday 16 December 2018

Witnesses in gang murder trial need 24/7 armed guard

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Stock photo
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

Witnesses in a gangland feud murder trial have been put under armed guard to stop them being targeted by the Kinahan cartel.

Three people who are due to give evidence in the case are receiving 24/7 protection against possible danger from associates of the international crime gang.

The State witnesses - one woman and two men - have had armed officers posted outside their homes for more than a year.

A source said gardaí had not been made aware of any specific threat, but the decision to provide armed protection was taken because of the ruthlessness of the gang involved.

"Gardaí cannot take any chances given the size and resources the organised crime gang in question have," said the source.

"It is an extreme but necessary step to ensure that witnesses won't be interfered with or targeted by the Kinahan cartel."

One of the three witnesses is under round-the-clock protection in Dublin, while the others are being protected in country towns after fleeing the capital for their own safety.

It is understood that evidence from one of the three is central to the lengthy Garda investigation.

A number of people have been charged in relation to the investigation, including two men who gardaí believe are members of the Kinahan gang.

A third man wanted in relation to the murder probe fled the country after being questioned by detectives.

Because of Garda resources being stretched, rank-and-file members of the force have been sent on firearms courses to increase the number of armed officers available.

It emerged over the weekend that armed gardaí were drafted in to Portlaoise Prison to protect staff who were being threatened by the Kinahan cartel.

Inmates linked to the cartel are said to have been warning they would make "another Brian Stack". Prison officer Mr Stack was shot by the IRA in 1983 and died from his injuries 18 months later.

Staff at Portlaoise were also told on Friday night to move their cars away from the edge of the jail car park over fears of an attack.

The ongoing Hutch-Kinahan feud has so far claimed up to 18 lives, with the cartel believed to be responsible for all but two of the murders.

The bloody feud kicked off in September 2015 when Gary Hutch, a nephew of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, was shot dead in Spain.

Five months later, David Byrne, a close associate of cartel boss Daniel Kinahan, was gunned down at a boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel.

Irish Independent

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