Friday, 27 July 2007

Westies' leader 'a victim of trial by media'

Westies' leader 'a victim of trial by media'
By Breda Heffernan

Friday July 27 2007

THE brother of murdered Westies gang leader Shane Coates yeseterday claimed that he was the victim of a "trial by media".

The bodies of Coates and his gangland colleague and friend Stephen Sugg were flown back to Ireland this week, six months after their remains were discovered in a concrete tomb in Spain.

Chris Coates admitted his brother was "messed up in some sort of carry on" and that drugs "could" have been involved.

But he defended his brother's "innocence" and claimed he was the victim of a trial by media.

"Shane was never charged or convicted of anything to do with drugs. And really it was the tabloid newspapers who actually accused him during his trial and then convicted him.

"I believe in due process and I think . . . everything should be done by the law. If somebody is supposed to be involved in drugs they should be charged and brought before a jury and then convicted. But not convicted in the newspaper.

"I think the tabloids have a lot to answer for and they just run amok really at the moment," he added.

When asked how his brother could have found himself buried under six feet of concrete in a Costa Blanca industrial estate, Mr Coates agreed that something untoward was going on and that drugs could have been involved.

"Obviously he was messed up in some sort of carry-on," he said.

Shane Coates was buried in a private funeral amid emotional scenes just six hours after his remains were flown back to Ireland on Wednesday morning.

Mr Coates told Newstalk 106-108's Lunchtime with Eamon Keane his family first learned his brother was missing about two years ago. Authorities in Spain discovered his remains around six months later.

"The family has had the time to sort of get used to it. However, at the funeral yesterday, I have to say that . . . coming up to the funeral you feel like you've sort of got over this type of thing. But actually it was quite an emotional day at the funeral. To see his three young kids getting upset and the rest of the family got upset seeing that."

But he said his family have a certain amount of closure now that Coates's body has been brought home and that "it's good that it's all . . . done with".

The bodies of Coates (31) and Sugg (27) were released by Spanish authorities after their identities were confirmed through DNA testing. Gardai flew to Spain last November with DNA swabs from relatives.

The pair fled Ireland in 2004 after a reign of terror against other drug dealers.

They moved to Torrevieja in south east Spain to recreate their Irish empire but fell foul of rival drug gangs.

Police suspect they had swindled other dealers out of a shipment of cocaine and hashish.

The two west Dublin men were lured from their villa complex at Orihuela Costa, outside Torrevieja, on the evening of January 31, 2004, in the belief that they were going to discuss a drugs deal.

Instead, Coates, from Hartstown, and Sugg, from Corduff, Blanchardstown, were taken to Catral, and shot dead at point-blank range.

- Breda Heffernan

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