Saturday, 3 May 2008

Man accused of Guerin killing jailed over £10m kidnap plot

• Conviction welcomed by dead reporter's family
• Honey trap abduction foiled by detectives
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
The Guardian, Saturday 3 May 2008
A criminal named in a Dublin court as the gunman who killed campaigning journalist Veronica Guerin was jailed yesterday for eight years over a £10m kidnap plot. Patrick "Dutchy" Holland, 68, was found guilty of planning to abduct west London businessman Nasir Zahid in a so called honey trap.
At a trial in Dublin for drug smuggling, a police officer said she believed Holland was the gunman who had killed Guerin in her car in June 1996. Holland had been part of a major Irish criminal gang headed by convicted drugs smuggler John Gilligan. The crime boss had given the order that Guerin be assassinated. Gilligan had threatened her and her young son over her attempts to expose him as one of the leading drug smugglers in Ireland. Holland was never brought to trial for Guerin's murder.
The London kidnap plot was foiled after detectives secretly filmed gang members and bugged their calls as they staked out Zahid's west London offices and home, Blackfriars crown court in London was told.
The gang had planned to abduct him outside his company Tradex Ltd, in Chiswick, west London.
A businessman from mainline Europe, dubbed the Banker - who was not before the court - allegedly financed the plan and recruited Holland to organise the kidnapping of Zahid. John McDonnell, 45, an associate of Holland, was overheard boasting of the potential ransom.
Days before their arrest on May 1 last year McDonnell and Gerard Booth, 47, from Northern Ireland, drove to the home of Khan Coombs, 24, to convince her to apply for a job at Zahid's company. McDonnell said: "We're going to send you into the office and you're going to try and flirt with this bstar-d to see if he'll ask you out - which he will, that's the type of dog he is. If he comes out we're going to grab him. If this comes off there's £10m involved in this job.
"When you bring him out we can take him to the slaughterhouse."
Holland, McDonnell, Booth and Coombs were convicted of conspiracy to kidnap after a month-long trial.
Simon Young, 38, was also convicted of the plot and a further count of having an ME38 blank-firing revolver which had been converted to shoot live rounds. McDonnell was jailed for eight years, Booth for seven years, Coombs for four years and Young for 11 years. Guerin's family last night welcomed the conviction describing it as "a roundabout way to justice" for the reporter.
Her brother Jimmy Guerin said: "I am delighted at least that this key member of the Gilligan gang is behind bars in a British prison. He couldn't even go straight when he was released from jail the last time in Ireland. It shows what an immoral personal Holland was and still is."
Guerin's murder inspired a 2003 film starring Cate Blanchett in the title role. The killing also prompted the Irish state into action against several major criminal gangs in charge of the drugs trade in the republic. The Criminal Assets Bureau was created and given powers to seize bank accounts belonging to suspected Irish gangsters. The bureau became the model for other crime fighting agencies around the world including the UK Assets Recovery Agency.
Holland served nine years for possessing and smuggling cannabis and vowed to undergo a lie-detector test to prove he did not murder Guerin.
The Dublin born career criminal had been associated with the republican splinter group the Irish National Liberation Army and had previous convictions for handling weapons and explosives.

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