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Rise and fall of the Corbally brothers

THEY set out on their criminal path as car thieves in the infamous M50 gang. It ended in a hail of bullets last week for the Corbally brothers.

By the time of their demise Paul (35) and Kenneth (32) had become major players on the Dublin drugs scene with a reputation for gratuitous violence. Slashing their victims' faces had become their trademark.

As they moved further into the criminal underworld, they forged alliances with violent Traveller crime gangs and shared a network with a major Manchester heroin gang.

At the same time, two other pals in the M50 gang were on their way to becoming major crime figures - and as it would transpire, bitter enemies.

To the gardai, the Corballys were the lowest of the low - criminals who couldn't control their tempers and would threaten officers with violence at every turn.

One of the officers now leading the war against organised crime in the city, and who dealt with their dad Paddy, was threatened that he would be shot by the pair.

They would begin in petty crime as teens, becoming central to the M50 gang's activities because of their skill behind the wheel. They had total disregard for their own safety and the safety of others.

In one case, an ERU crew who were giving chase to the pair were lucky to escape with their lives when they were rammed by the Corballys.

The Corballys were primarily involved in the burglary of high powered vehicles and developed considerable reputations as the capital's most efficient getaway drivers.

But the fortunes of the brothers changed in 1997 when they fled Ireland to avoid arrest following the shooting of a man at their home, which resulted in their father going to prison for seven years for possession of a machine gun pistol (see below).

Their self-imposed exile saw them set up in Manchester and form strong bonds with Ballyfermot drugs baron, Sean Comerford.

Comerford had set up a major drugs operation between Manchester and his Ballyfermot base, shipping huge quantities of heroin.

He had been forced to leave Dublin in the mid-90s because of pressure from the CAB and fear of attack by vigilantes.

A drug seizure worth around £1m was made during the search of a house in Manchester in November 1998 .

Comerford was arrested and subsequently jailed over the haul.

In his absence, responsibility for the day-to-day running of the drugs operation fell to the Corbally brothers who had, by then, returned to Dublin.

The pair continued to flood Ballyfermot with heroin until Comerford resumed as boss on his release from jail three years ago.

But the brothers still operated as Comerford's eyes, ears and muscle on the streets of Ballyfermot.

Gardai suspected the pair were heavily involved in punishment beatings and slashings when settling scores and collecting drug debts.

At the time the brothers fled Ballyfermot in 1997, Paul had amassed convictions, dating from 1994, for larceny, public order and assault.

He was before the courts again in 2001, part of a double-barrell shotgun was found down his trousers when stopped in Lucan.

The brothers were wearing fake beards, and gardai found a balaclava, hairpieces and a bottle of stage make-up glue in their car.

In the early 2000s the Corballys graduated to a significant level of drug dealing in west Dublin.

Now they had acquired an underworld status equal to that of their boss Sean Comerford.

In 2002, Paul Corbally was jailed for five years for an armed robbery in which a garage owner was beaten with a baton.

The victim was set upon as he took a lodgement of money from his garage in Clondalkin to a building society in March 1997. True to their style, the victim had been rammed by four men in a BMW.

By then Paul had amassed 11 convictions.

And he and his brother remained deeply involved in street crime.

Earlier this year, the Corballys allegedly chased a diner over a counter in Burger King on the Belgard Road in Tallaght after they approached and spoke to him while he was eating his meal.

The net on the gang tightened in April when one of their fellow gang members, Michael 'Budner' Byrne, a 36-year-old from Old Tower, in Clondalkin, was jailed for 18 years after being caught in possession of heroin worth €6.2m in 2008.

Two months later, their criminal career would come to an abrupt and brutal end in a hail of bullets in Neilstown, west Dublin.

The pair died as they lived and committed crime, side by side.

The prime motive for their death is a longstanding feud the Corballys were involved in with one of their old pals in the M50 gang.

The pal was one of two in the old gang they were once friendly with but who were by now sworn enemies.

All along detectives had warned the brothers their lives were in danger.

TOMORROW: How the Corballys were behind a spree of ATM robberies and then fell out with a Traveller Kingpin PLUS: Profile of the 'Boss of Ballyfermot' and link between all the fighting factions