Saturday, 24 September 2005

The cocaine Kates of rural Ireland

Saturday September 24 2005
There isn't a village in the country that has escaped the scourge of hard drugs... last week a 15-year-old Carlow boy was the latest tragic victim. Gemma O'Doherty reports

Being Good

by Jobber Ryan (aged 14)

I used to be bad, very, very bad.

I used to drive everyone mad.

I thought at the time it was very good

When I didn't do what I should.

But it has made everyone so cross and snappy

Even I became unhappy.

I lay awake in bed last night,

And decided in future to do things right.

Today I've been good for so long,

They're asking me now

Is there anything wrong?

Last summer, James "Jobber" Ryan made a promise to be good. He put his pledge into poetry and wanted to show the world. He had been bad for too long. It was time to start again.

But Jobber didn't find the will to change his ways. Drugs had taken a grip on his body and mind, and dragged him into the gutter.

Last Saturday night, neighbours saw his young life draw to a close as he wandered the streets of his hometown, Carlow, violently ill. He was rushed to hospital in convulsions, and died in the early hours from a suspected cocaine overdose, just one week short of his 16th birthday.

The news of his death has sent waves of revulsion across Ireland's second smallest county. Not surprise. Everyone knew Jobber played with fire and that one day he would get burnt. But locals feel a stomach-turning sickness over the fact that young boys like him are now easy prey for ruthless drug-dealers.

Jobber "has been taken out of evil now," said Fr Tom Little, PP of Askea, Carlow, at the teenager's funeral this week. Pleading with the community to be vigilant and "get rid of the people trying to exploit children and young people", he sent a warning to those who were indirectly responsible for the teenager's death.

"These people need to know they are not welcome in our community when all they bring is death and misery," he said.

Amid the loathing on the streets of Carlow, there is hope that some good might come out of Jobber's death. That it might serve as a wake-up call to the country that cocaine is no longer a dangerous recreational pastime of the Dublin jet-set but is seeping into the towns and villages of rural Ireland, ruining families and destroying young lives.

A recent survey undertaken by the Health Research Board, one of the most intensive yet on Ireland's illicit drug culture, is concrete proof that rural areas no longer lag behind Dublin when it comes to drug use.

While the capital city still reports the highest numbers for treatment of drug abuse, the use of cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine is found to have dramatically risen in the rest of the country in recent years.

Last year, Carlow's growing drug problem was highlighted when it became the county with the highest increase in incidents of heroin abuse outside Dublin. It is estimated more than 100 heroin addicts live in the town, feeding habits of more than €700 a week. There is also a thriving market for cocaine, which comes at a street value of between €70 to €100 a line.

Recent surveys show that 18% of children between 12 and 18 in Carlow have used drugs, cannabis being their drug of choice, followed by speed and solvents.

New road networks between Dublin and towns and villages in surrounding counties are part of the explanation for the rise in rural drug use. Improved transport links have allowed distributors of drugs greater ease of movement and addicts greater freedom to travel. Athlone, Portlaoise, Gorey, Wicklow and Bray are among a group of towns whose drug problems are believed to be spiralling out of control.

"Drug users are leaving Dublin and coming to rural towns," says Dr Stephen Bowe, a GP in Wexford town, where an average of 42 people are treated every month for illegal drug and alcohol-related problems in the town's General Hospital.

"They may have defaulted on a debt or cut in on someone else's patch and they have to get away. They drift out to the rural areas where they feel they won't be under any threat and bring their habit with them. Then they make contact with locals and the stuff is disseminated. It's not that local people suddenly decide to make contact with some druggie in Dublin. It just filters down.

"More and more people are taking drugs. I see the effects every day in my surgery but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is total denial about the problem in rural Ireland. Most people wouldn't even know there is a problem. Unless you are a victim of crime, a mugging or a bag snatch say, you're not brought into contact with drugs."

As drugs become more widely available in rural areas, privately Gardai admit they have been taken aback by the surge in demand for cocaine in smaller towns and villages.

'Drugs are all about marketing - that's why cocaine is so popular," says one senior member of the force. "It's more marketable than heroin. Heroin is seen as a dirty drug used by down-and-outs, but cocaine is used by people from all walks of life because they see it as a cool thing to do. It's used by the likes of Kate Moss, by people who seem to have everything. It is purely recreational initially until it becomes a problem.

"The availability of coke is growing in smaller towns because the profits are huge. Very rarely would we come across a drug search now of even minor significance where somebody doesn't have €1,000 or €2,000 cash in their back pocket or bedroom. You can buy a kilo of cocaine abroad for €20,000, bring it back here and sell it on to one of the big gangs for €40,000 a kilo. Then they sell it on the street for €70,000.

"The people who have money in well-paid jobs have the money to get the coke they need, but eventually they start borrowing and upping their credit card limit. But how does a 20-year-old living in rural Ireland who has a job worth €300 a week sustain a coke habit? Sooner or later, they will probably turn to crime to support their habit."

Patrick Gallagher, a recovering addict who is now a drug worker in the south-east, says the rise of cocaine in rural areas has been dramatic.

"Heroin and cocaine these days go hand in hand. People do a thing called a speedball which is mixing both drugs in a syringe. In the last five years, chaps who would have started out on ecstasy and party drugs have all progressed onto either smoking or injecting heroin. You have different types of people using heroin now from the homeless through to bankers and doctors.

"The influx of cocaine has been incredible. I am approached every day of the week because of the way I look. The situation is worse than ever but people just put their head in the sand when it comes to drugs. They don't want to know."

His opinion is shared by staff at one of the handful of rural residential drug treatment centres, where pleas for funding continue to go unheard.

"We have Kate Moss's coming through the doors every day, young people from rural backgrounds whose brains are fried with drugs," says Anne Cuffe, CEO of the Aiseiri Addiction Treatment Centre, which runs residential services in Cahir, Co Tipperary and Wexford town, and a rehabilitation centre in Waterford.

"I think it's fair to say now that there isn't a village in Ireland that isn't touched by drugs. Our clients certainly have no problem getting anything they want, but there is a huge denial on the part of government that rural Ireland even has a drug problem. The focus is still on Dublin.

"More than €100m has been spent on drugs services in Dublin over the last five years but hardly anything in the regions. We have 12 beds in Cahir and 12 in Wexford and they are full all the time. In rural Ireland we feel we are unheard."

Sunday, 11 September 2005

The blood brothers who turned on each other

Sunday Tribune

How drugs and greed drove the Sugg and Glennon brothers to murder, mayhem and death
John Burke
LOCALS who drank in the Brookwood Inn knew where they could and could not sit in that Blanchardstown, Dublin pub.

Inside the main door, to the left, was the domain of one group only . . . the Westies gang members. The two Sugg brothers, the Glennon duo, Shane Coates and a handful of muscled henchmen sat there.

Some drank excessively, their language crude and their manner intimidating.

For more than three years, nobody messed with the untouchable gang of drug dealers and armed robbers in their personal fiefdom. Until they started killing each other.

Now, Andrew 'Madser' Glennon and his older brother Mark, who was shot dead outside his home last week, both lie dead. But not before they killed one of the Sugg brothers, Bernard, the vicious Westies "enforcer".

His big brother, Stephen Sugg, was last seen on the run in Spain. Fellow gang leader Shane Coates also fled abroad after being wounded in a shoot-out with the garda emergency response unit (ERU). Despite rumours that they are in hiding in Morocco, it is widely believed that both Sugg and Coates were murdered by a Mediterraneanbased Russian drugs gang in Alicante last year.

When they ruled their lucrative drugs empire on the west side of Dublin's northside, the Suggs and Glennons operated with chilling ruthlessness, often employing gratuitous violence against their adversaries. They would later display the same enmity towards each other.

The Glennon duo, 31-yearold Coates and Stephen Sugg (26) were friends since their teens in the working-class Corduff estate in Blanchardstown. They had robbed cars together and sold stolen cigarettes. In the late 1990s, they saw a vacuum in the hash and heroin trade in north Dublin and moved in with brutal effectiveness.

For over four years, the gang conducted its affairs with relative impunity. At times, gardai constructed seemingly watertight cases that for various reasons fell apart.

The secret to the Westies' success lay in the level of fear they instilled both in those who worked for them and in their enemies. Junkies and dealers who owed as little as IR£10 were severely beaten.

The Glennon duo were central to imposing this fear.

Andrew Glennon notoriously pulled a tooth from the mouth of one young junkie who could not pay, while another strungout accomplice held the victim down.'The gang taught a lesson to a mother-of-four who could not pay what she owed . . . she was tortured by having her breasts burned with cigarette butts, in front of her children in their north inner city flat.

Brutality The Westies gang encouraged brutality among its network of pushers. One junkie, Derek 'Smiley' McGuinness, from Corduff Park, owed the gang IR£200. He was set upon by two other pushers who, along with Stephen Sugg, smashed all his teeth, slashed him across the face and beat him with an iron bar in a public park. McGuinness gave a statement to gardai identifying Sugg.

Rival heroin dealer Pascal Boland (43) had seen tough men when he dealt with the notorious PJ Judge, a particularly violent drug dealer who was assasinated some years ago. He decided to push in on the Westies' turf and between October 1998 and January 1999 he reportedly imported several major heroin shipments.

But the two Glennons and their cohorts were having none of it. A Westies pusher who helped Boland was severely beaten and told to pass a mobile phone number to Boland. When the older criminal rang the number, he was allegedly told to get off the Westies' patch or he was dead. He told the gang leader to "fuck off. . . you're nobodies."

On 27 January 1999, a gunman fired 11 bullets into Boland's body.

It was the Westies' first big mistake, allowing gardai in Blanchardstown to mount a special investigation into the gang's activities. Increased surveillance and intelligencegathering generated new leads for the force.

Gardai had, at times, been amazed by the luck that kept the gang leaders and their cohorts out of jail. Neither the Suggs nor the Glennons were regarded as being particularly intelligent. "They weren't Rhodes scholars, " one now-retired garda said of the gang leaders.

But gardai got a boost from an unexpected source when, in October 1999, Westies henchmen shot 18-year-old Blanchardstown local Paul Dempsey in his bed, disconnecting his right calf muscle from his leg with one shot.

His offence? The teen was so bold as to date Sugg's 16-year old sister Frances without the elder brother's permission. Dempsey's brother Robert was a friend of Sugg's but he was beaten with an iron bar. Dempsey and his brother agreed to give evidence in court.

Evidence from both Dempsey and McGuinness could have put the senior gang members away for a long time, and hopes were high that stronger prosecutions might emerge once the gang leaders were off the street. Gardai anticipated that the entire deck of cards would fall . . . hopefully bringing down the Glennons and a dozen other Westies henchmen.

But by October 2000, the case against the gang was in shreds. Ultimately, neither Dempsey or McGuinness gave evidence in court.

Between the end of 2000 and late 2002 the Glennon duo, the two Suggs and Coates brazenly stamped their authority on the west Dublin territory. Three smalltime drug pushers were tortured and shot over bad debts. Gardai believe a large number of people who fell foul of the gang were beaten and tortured with knives, vice grips and iron bars.

Unlike previous inner city criminals who had some support among members of their community, the Suggs and Glennons were disliked and feared in equal measure by their Blanchardstown neighbours.

But just over two years ago, things had gone almost irrevocably wrong for the Westies, when Coates and Stephen Sugg fell out with the Glennon brothers. Gardai estimate that the gang had amassed 2m in drug-related profits, mostly from heroin but increasingly from cocaine. The two Glennons wanted a bigger slice of the pie. Coates and the Suggs had finally met a rival in Andrew 'Madser' Glennon especially, who was familiar with their terror tactics.

Panic Stephen Sugg panicked after an attempt was made on his life in February 2003, believing Mark Glennon was behind the attack. Sugg fled to Alicante where he was joined by Coates three months later. The final strike against their once-impenetrable empire occurred in their absence, when 'Madser' walked into the gang's old haunt, shooting Bernard Sugg twice as he supped soda water in the Brookwood Inn.

But the Glennons' time at the top was as short-lived as the reign of Coates and the Sugg brothers. Surrounded by a cabal of henchmen, most of whom have cocaine addictions and access to firearms, the two brothers sparked a row with a rival pair of brothers who were former Westies allies as recently as 18 months ago. The incident escalated into the murder in May of 'Madser' at his Clonee home, and last week's shooting dead of Mark Glennon outside his Blanchardstown home.

What happens next is inevitable, senior gardai believe, given the large array of high-powered weapons at the disposal of west Dublin gangs. The power struggle which gripped the original Westies gang and led to the emergence of the Glennons as the leading force in the west Dublin heroin trade is likely to see another brace of killings in the coming months, if not weeks.
September 11, 2005

Friday, 9 September 2005

Two brothers planned latest gun murder in gangland feud

By Tom BradySecurity Editor

Friday September 09 2005
TWO brothers are believed by gardai to have plotted the vicious murder of a drug dealer at his home.

The cold-blooding shooting of Mark Glennon (32) was the latest incident in a bloody personal feud between two factions who had formerly been associates in a major trafficking gang in the capital.

Senior gardai believe Glennon was set up by his killers and lured away from the security which had foiled a previous attempt on his life last month.

Glennon, a father of one, was shot four times outside his home at Hazelwood Crescent in Hartstown, West Dublin, on Wednesday afternoon. He had earlier been talking to his father, Frank, and a friend, Stephen Byrne, in his garden.

He then left the others and walked around the corner of his estate, apparently to meet somebody who had contacted him.

Glennon ran back towards his house, hotly pursued by his killer, who pumped four bullets from a handgun into his upper body and made an escape in a Toyota Camry car.

The Camry was found burnt out shortly afterwards at Meadow Crescent and last night gardai were trying to establish if the car had been stolen recently in the Templeogue area on the southside of the city.

On August 27 last a gunman fired five shots at Glennon's house, but the attack was foiled by bullet-proof glass which he installed along with CCTV cameras shortly after the feud erupted. The tit-for-tat attacks began last year after a pub row between some of the former associates spilled over and led to a serious split in the gang.

Until then, the gang had been regarded as the "new kids on the block" who were destined to take control of the lucrative drugs trade in the area from the notorious Westies gang, whose leaders Shane Coates and Stephen Sugg were said to have been murdered in Spain.

Police intelligence indicated that Coates and Sugg had double-crossed a Russian mafia leader they were due to supply with a shipment of drugs. It was alleged that the Irishmen had taken the Russian cash before providing the drugs and in retaliation were abducted and then murdered. Their bodies have not been found.

The row between the two factions escalated last New Year's Eve after two members of the group opposed to Mark Glennon had been arrested for questioning about another shooting.

On their way home, 30 shots were fired at the two from a machine gun, and Glennon and his brother, Andrew (30), known as 'Madser', were blamed. Last April, 'Madser' Glennon was shot dead at his home in Clonee, Co Meath. The two brothers who are prime suspects in the planning of Wednesday's murder are accused of involvement in that killing.

Gardai said last night they had no plans to dramatically alter tactics in Operation Anvil, which has resulted in the arrest of almost 300 suspected lawbreakers and seizure of more than 100 firearms since it began last May.

Anvil is primarily focused on west Dublin and senior gardai say their covert and overt operations in the division have prevented other serious gun attacks. Justice Minister Michael McDowell yesterday denied claims by local Labour TD Joan Burton that he was complacent about the level of crime in the area.

Mr McDowell said gardai had unprecedented resources to put into tackling gangland crime, but Ms Burton said west Dublin remained under-policed.

Labour's justice spokesman Joe Costello claimed the Glennon shooting underlined the need for a fundamental review of the Garda approach to gangs and gun murders.

- Tom BradySecurity Editor