By Kevin Doyle
Friday December 18 2009
Brian Rattigan's tit-for-tat feud with 'Fat' Freddie Thompson began over damage to a bicycle and quickly spiralled into bloody warfare.
Since that minor act of vandalism 11 years ago, the Crumlin/Drimnagh feud has split communities, scarred families and claimed 15 lives.
It's an urban feud straight from a Hollywood blockbuster with two ruthless criminals terrorising ordinary citizens and showing no regard for those who might get caught in the crossfire of their struggle for power.
Gardai credit the burning of the bike belonging to one of Thompson's pals as the starting point in the neighbourhood squabble. In retaliation, an attempt was made to petrol bomb the suspected culprit's house -- even though there was nothing to associate him with the incident.
After the bicycle, the Rattigan gang used acid to burn a car belonging to the mother of a Thompson associate.
But it was late 2000 when the feud exploded in all-out warfare. Detectives raided a room in the Holiday Inn on Pearse Street where they found €1.5m of ecstasy and cocaine. Murder victim Declan Gavin had left the room to park a car when gardai burst in, leading Rattigan to believe he was a snitch.
Less than a year later, Gavin (21) found himself eye-to-eye with a balaclava-clad and knife-wielding Rattigan outside Abrakebabra in Crumlin. A witness said Rattigan ran towards the drug dealer and asked: "Do you remember me?" before saying: "You're dead."
In February 2002, the rival gangs clashed during a Rattigan family gathering, turning it into a bloody brawl. One man was so badly assaulted that he received 80 stitches to the head.
In just three years, south Dublin had witnessed one murder, six firearm incidents, two men shot and a series of vicious assaults. But that was just the beginning. By July, both sides were entrenched in the battle.
The second life claimed was that of Joseph Rattigan (18), Brian's brother. He was shot at point-blank range on Cooley Road in Crumlin by men who were believed to be associates of Thompson.
At the start of 2003, members of the Rattigan gang faced down gardai during a high-speed car case. Shots from a pump-action shotgun were levelled at officers from Kilmainham Garda Station and they ultimately had to respond by discharging a firearm of their own.
In February 2004, Rattigan gang enforcer, Gary Bryan, is reported to have killed Paul Warren (24) in the toilets of Grey's in Newmarket Square. Rattigan believed that Warren played some part in his brother's death.
Less than two years later, the first double murder saw Gavin Byrne (30) and Darren Geoghegan (26) killed inside a silver Lexus. Some evidence suggested it was retaliation, but it might have been a double cross by Thompson's men.
Geoghegan had previously laughed in the face of gardai when they tried to warn him of a serious threat to his life.
Two days after their killing, on November 15, 2005, Noel Roche (27) was murdered as he sat in a car in Clontarf. His brother John (24) had been shot dead in March by Thompson's gang.
In the meantime, Terrence Dunleavy (26) from Ballybough had also been gunned down. He was reported to have sold a bike to a member of the Rattigan gang which was later used in an attack on a Thompson gang member.
All the time various other assaults were taking place in the background as gardai valiantly struggled to keep track of the growing gang numbers.
Officers believe that both sides were using advance surveillance tactics and on one occasion even lured an assault victim to the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre using a honeytrap.
On August 19, 2006, Wayne Zambra was executed on Cameron Street in Dublin 8. An associate of the Rattigan gang, Zambra (22) was shot in the head, while a friend was also shot in the leg.
Gary Bryan (31) -- who had been linked to the Warren murder -- was believed to be the gunman in the Zambra case.
And just over a month later, Bryan, who was known to gardai as Rattigan's gun-for-hire found himself on the wrong side of a trigger and was fatally shot. The 11th victim -- Eddie McCabe -- was found with what gardai described as horrific injuries on a laneway at the rear of Tyrconnell Road in Dublin.
One of his eyes had been gouged out. McCabe had a loose association with Thompson's gang and was regarded as a "soft target" by the opposing mob.
There was another double murder in October 2007 when Brian Downes and Eddie Ward were shot dead at Downes' garage on the Greenhills Road.
Downes had been quizzed about the murder of John Roche. Ward was an entirely innocent man who was shot because he witnessed Downes' killing.
Gardai did manage to clamp down on the much of the gangland activity in 2008 as Thompson fled the country and to a hideout in the Costa del Sol from where rumours of his death frequently surfaced.
A tentative ceasefire was agreed after an intervention from some female family members on both sides, but the feud resurfaced again this year.
In March, the partner of Brian Rattigan's sister, Sharon, was injured, while her partner Shay O'Byrne (27) was killed. Ms Rattigan never had any involvement in the feud.
And in July, Anthony Cannon (26), from Robert Street in the city, was shot dead in Ballyfermot.
Gardai believe that Cannon, a pal of Rattigan's, was behind a number of feud-related attacks in the year before his death.
Today's verdict marks a big achievement on the part of gardai who have faced an uphill battle in trying to bring this feud under control.
Still though, the Crumlin/Drimnagh feud involves up to 30 hard core members on either side.
At least 100 people are believed to be directly linked to Thompson and Rattigan, and both have now formed links with the notorious gangs of Limerick.
But today at least, 'Fat' Freddie Thompson remains in Spain and on the run in Spain, while Brian Rattigan will be behind bars for years to come.
- Kevin Doyle