Finglas West, or 'murder triangle', has become the most notorious gangland graveyard in Ireland. In 10 years there have been 17 murders, the latest of which was the execution of Mick Murray last week.
Ali Bracken, Crime Correspondent, reports
Kippure Park in Finglas, where two men were murdered last week. The estate was also home to notorious criminals Paul Martin and Marlo Hyland, who also lost their lives at the hand of assassins.
1 2 3 4 5 6 Last week's execution of Finglas criminal and suspected killer Mick Murray was the 17th murder in the area in the past 10 years.
Most of the murders have taken place within a few square miles of each other in Finglas west which has led detectives to label the area the 'murder triangle'.
The triangle encompasses Cappagh Cross, Ratoath Road and Cardiffsbridge and earned its nickname not just because of the number of killings but for the amount of murderers living in the area.
The 41-year-old Murray was killed in Kippure Park last Tuesday night. It is the third murder in the estate in the last two years.
"It really was unbelievable the amount of dangerous individuals living there and the executions carried out," said a senior detective.
"The infamous Martin Hyland and poor young Anthony Campbell died there. So did Kevin Ledwidge and Patrick Sheridan. Paul 'Farmer' Martin lived there and so did Dwayne Foster, the young criminal who was arrested for Donna Cleary's killing but died in custody."
Finglas has been synonymous with gangland killings since the murder of PJ 'The Psycho' Judge in 1996 and has spawned some of the underworld's most violent criminals. Judge had just left The Royal Oak Pub and was sitting in his car when a gunman walked over and fired two shots through the window.
The IRA is believed to be responsible for the killing of the drug trafficker, who earned his nickname after he carried out a particularly gruesome murder of a local small-time criminal, Jock Corbally, over a small debt.
While most of the killers who lived on 'murder triangle' have met a violent end, the level of gang activity and cycle of executions in Finglas is alive and well.
Six weeks before last week's murder of Mick Murray, Finglas criminal Graham McNally (34), from Cappagh Avenue, was found with several gunshot wounds to the head in a ditch on the nearby North Road.
"There is no let-up. The gang activity in Finglas right now is as bad as it ever was. All of these guys have a short lifespan. They're easily replaced."
Following the murder of Judge, up-and-coming criminal Martin 'Marto' Hyland stepped into his shoes and took over his enterprise in Finglas. He began with cash-in-transit robberies and graduated to drug trafficking in the late 1990s. He frequently travelled to Spain and the Netherlands to organise shipments with another north Dublin criminal. "Hyland was probably the most powerful criminal to come out of Finglas. His reign lasted 10 years, a relatively long time. He was smarter than the average criminal," according to a source.
The 39-year-old drug lord was executed as he slept at his sister's house in Scribblestown Park in December 2006. Innocent apprentice plumber Anthony Campbell (20) was shot dead alongside him as he worked on a radiator at the house.
Since Hyland's murder, a trigger-happy Finglas gangster, considered far more dangerous than his predecessor, has taken control. The new 'Mr Big' was responsible for three gangland murders in the capital in January and has become so paranoid that he shot his closest lieutenant over vague suspicions that there was a plot to kill him.
In his early 30s, the man is now regarded as Ireland's most dangerous criminal. "Criminals don't come any worse than this guy. He's completely ruthless and is semi-educated, unlike many others in his position," according to a source.
"He oozes evil. There are only three criminals I've come across in my career who I can describe in that way. Aside from Mr Big, the other two are also Finglas criminals, both now dead, John Daly and Declan Curran."
Declan Curran, John Daly and Anthony 'Anto' Spratt were the three central players in the Filthy Fifty gang who challenged the infamous Westies gang, based in neighbouring Blanchardstown.
The trio grew up together in Finglas in the 1980s and early 1990s and were instrumental in earning the area's bloody reputation. They epitomised the emerging breed of young criminals who were chronic cocaine and steroid users.
The three young men grew from car thieves and petty criminals to become serious players, and their ruthlessness meant they were feared by rival gangs and the local community.
The gang were closely aligned to Hyland and the trio were regularly hired as extra muscle. The Filthy Fifty was eventually destroyed by murder, suicide and sudden deaths. Curran (24), who died from drug-related complications in his cell at Cloverhill Prison in November 2004, was the main suspect in two local killings and survived an earlier assassination attempt.
Daly (27), whose call to RTÉ Radio's Liveline provoked a clampdown on mobile phones in prisons, was gunned down as he sat in the passenger seat in a taxi on Cloonlara Drive, Finglas, in October 2007.
"He was considered a bit of an eejit but underneath that, Daly was absolutely stone cold," said a senior detective.
In March 2005, Anthony Spratt (31) hanged himself in his prison cell in Mountjoy.
In 2003, gardaí established Operation Crossover to tackle the escalating gang violence in Finglas and Blanchardstown. This later developed into Operation Anvil, which went citywide and then countrywide.
"Basically, we needed help and that was largely down to the antics led by those three. We got the Emergency Response Unit on the street as well as a special detectives unit. We began harassing them as much as we could, searching their houses, searching them at checkpoints. We recovered a lot of drugs and firearms and it was the beginning of the end for them."
Since 1998, there have been 17 gangland murders carried out in Finglas and countless others ordered by criminals from the area but executed elsewhere.
Behind these grim statistics are families left destroyed and a community that feels polarised. Often the parents of these murdered men – and these gangland figures are always men – have nothing to do with criminality and raised their children well.
"The first thing locals here say when they hear of another murder is, 'I hope it's not here'. The people carrying out these atrocities are people not fit to be called men," said parish priest Fr Seamus Ahern, who's been based in the area for 12 years and presided over the funeral masses of many of the victims, including Paul 'Farmer' Martin, shot dead as he sat drinking in the Jolly Toper pub in August 2008.
"What worries me most is the reaction to the killings. I fear the retaliation that comes out of the anger and the cycle being endlessly repeated.
"I see the girls falling for these mini-gangsters and some of these young men are treated like heroes. It's the only status they can get in life. It's the stuff of fiction but it's actually reality."
March 8, 2009