Tuesday 20 August 2019

Drugs deal that ended in death in an icy canal

Liz Walsh reports on the events leading up to the brutal murders of Darren Carey and Patrick Murray

AS 1999 drew to a close and the country was preparing to celebrate the millennium, somebody put a gun to Patrick Murray's head and shot him dead. He was just 19.

That same somebody then turned the shotgun on Darren Carey, 20. Holding the gun between Darren's eyes, the killer blew the top of Darren Carey's head off before firing another round into his chest.

Then that same person or persons unknown dragged the bodies to the edge of the Grand Canal at Aylmer Bridge. There, in an isolated area of north Co Kildare, Darren Carey and Patrick Murray were tossed into the icy water below.

Patrick Murray's naked and bloated body was dragged from the canal on January 9, 2000, 12 days after he went missing from his home in Ballyfermot. Darren Carey was found at the bottom of the same canal on January 10. He had gone missing on December 29, the day after Murray. Gardai found fragments of bone and skin around the canal bank indicating that at least one, if not both men, were murdered at that spot.

Almost immediately the finger of suspicion pointed at a young Ballyfermot man Mark Desmond from Lally Road, known to gardai and locals as the 'Guinea Pig'. Although just 23 at the time, the Guinea Pig was emerging as a significant figure in the drugs trade in west Dublin, from Ballyfermot to Inchicore and the south inner city.

Mark Desmond was well known to the Gardai. His late father 'Dinny Boy' liked to boast that he was a friend of 'The General' Martin Cahill, although in reality he knew him only through the pigeon club. Desmond lived occasionally in the family home at Landen Road and other times with his uncle Lar at Lally Road. Lar Desmond moved to England in January 2000.

On the statement of a key prosecution witness Rachel Stephens, Mark Desmond was charged with the two murders and was due to stand trial on November 18 last. However, on the opening day, the DPP dropped the charges and Desmond was rearraigned on firearms charges.

As such, Mark Desmond is innocent of any involvement in the Canal Murders. Last Wednesday, he was unanimously convicted of unlawful possession of firearms with intent to endanger life between October 1, 1999 and February 17, 2000.

In reality, Mark Desmond had built up a substantial cache of guns and ammunition to enforce a drugs regime. He planned to flood west Dublin with heroin.

In court, the second key prosecution witness Jonathan Desmond gave a graphic eyewitness account of drug deals in Amsterdam and guns and ammunition stashed under a shed in Lally Road.

Jonathan Desmond, a former barman from Clondalkin and first cousin of the Guinea Pig, was arrested during the murder investigation. He told gardai about Desmond's drug deals in Holland and gun cache in Ballyfermot and of his own role in Desmond's drug operation, collecting money and depositing it in a flat in Meath Street. Mark Desmond denied it all but the jury accepted Jonathan Desmond's evidence.

Jonathan Desmond's first trip to Amsterdam was in November 1999. He and the Guinea Pig flew from Dublin to Schiphol Airport. Shortly after their arrival Mark Desmond met a "black guy" in Dam Square. They spoke for 10 minutes. Mark and Jonathan returned to Dublin and Mark Desmond asked Jonathan to go on a second trip. They were there a couple of days when Desmond said they were going to meet two men at Amsterdam Central. The two men were Patrick Murray and Gary Kelly. Kelly, also from Ballyfermot, is currently serving six years for drug trafficking. They were joined later by Darren Carey who was carrying 20,000 Dutch guilders. According to Jonathan's account, Mark Desmond rang the same black guy and arranged to buy heroin.

Patrick Murray and Jonathan and Mark Desmond went to a nearby apartment, where the Amsterdam dealer produced a half kilo of heroin. The heroin was passed over by Murray to Gary Kelly on Mark Desmond's instructions and was to be brought back through Dublin Airport the following day. Jonathan Desmond remained in Amsterdam with Murray while Mark flew to Dublin. He returned to Amsterdam a few days later and told them "the heroin got through customs".

A second deal was set up. It was double the amount and would cost 40,000 guilders, to be passed over by Darren Carey. Mark Desmond rang the same dealer again. This time they would have to go to Rotterdam to meet some Turkish dealers. The two Desmonds and the first dealer drove to an apartment in Rotterdam where the 40,000 guilders was handed over.

The deal done, Desmond and Co headed back to Amsterdam. According to Jonathan Desmond's evidence, the Guinea Pig told Murray and Kelly to take the heroin back through Dublin, but then changed his mind and instructed them to return via England. Customs had questioned Darren Carey at Dublin Airport on the outward flight but allowed him to continue his journey.

Murray and Kelly each stashed a half kilo down their trousers and headed for Schiphol Airport, but for some reason decided to come back through Dublin Airport instead of Heathrow. When they got off the plane in Dublin, the Gardai were waiting for them. It was December 3, 1999.

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