On 13 November 2005, two senior members of the Fat Freddie Thompson gang – Darren Geoghegan and Gavin Byrne – were shot dead in Firhouse in Dublin. The pair were murdered by their own side over a disagreement about where the gang's drugs money was being invested. Gardaí believe that Paddy Doyle, the Thompson mob's feared "enforcer", was responsible for the double murder. Its aftermath is detailed in Cocaine Wars: Fat Freddie Thompson and the Crumlin/Drimnagh Feud by Sunday Tribune security editor Mick McCaffrey
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Two days after Darren Geoghegan and Gavin Byrne had been shot dead, Noel Roche was preparing for a night out. Roche and his cohorts in the Brian Rattigan gang had spent the previous 48 hours trying to work out what the hell had happened at the housing estate in Firhouse. Two key members of Freddie Thompson's gang lay in a morgue, but Rattigan had absolutely nothing to do with it. It was a mystery, and the only thing the 27-year-old could think was that there was a serious civil war going on within Thompson's mob that would drive them to such lengths they would start killing their own.
There was no point in looking a gift horse in the mouth. Roche was probably more than happy that Thompson's gang number had been reduced by two, and felt sure that the internal strife was not over. He would happily sit back and let Thompson's crew murder each other, but if he got half the chance, he would take them out himself.
Noel Roche's brother John had been dead for less than eight months. He had not avenged his killing and that was probably one of his priorities. Although he was distraught when his brother was murdered, Roche realised that they were involved in a war and there were bound to be casualties, so he channelled his grief into getting even. It had been a good few days.
Roche was in good spirits and was looking forward to his night out; he was going to see Phil Collins in concert at the Point Depot. Although the soulful Collins might seem like a strange choice of musician for a Dublin gangster to be a fan of, detectives spotted over a dozen serious and well-known criminals from across the city going to see Collins perform that night.
According to gardaí, for some reason there are two songs that really resonate with criminals in Dublin. These songs are a staple of every wedding, 21st birthday party and wake attended by well-known and petty criminals. The first is 'Eye of the Tiger' by Survivor, which was the theme tune for the Rocky films.
A high percentage of gangland criminals are serious boxing fans and would always attend championship title fights at The Point. Freddie Thompson is a massive boxing fan and regularly travelled as far as Las Vegas to take in the fights of Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe. When Bernard Dunne fights at The Point, or the O2 arena, as it is now known, there are upwards of 15 armed and undercover gardaí mingling among the crowd. Virtually every criminal across Dublin attends these high-adrenaline events, and this could result in bloodshed if the wrong people ran into each other.
When 'Eye of the Tiger' is played at the Bernard Dunne fights, the crowd explodes with delight. The tune is a testosterone-fuelled number and brings out the best – or the worst – in macho men who remember watching Rocky and Apollo Creed square off against each other in the film when they were kids.
It can only be matched in popularity by one song – Phil Collins' 'In the Air Tonight,' a powerful song that tells the story of the singer witnessing an unspecified act, which leads to a death. Collins wrote the song while he was going through a divorce, and several urban myths have developed around it. Again, it is hard to tell why the song resonates with criminals, but there is an undercurrent of anger throughout, and when there is an explosion of drums going into the final verse, it never fails to bring the criminals to their feet to sing along. Maybe it is the fact that the singer has the power of life over death in the song, which criminals can relate to, or more likely, they just like the beat of the drums. It could also be because Phil Collins starred in the film Buster, about the Great Train Robbery. He played a petty criminal from the East End of London. It is hard to imagine that Irish gangland criminals would not only listen to his music, but actually go to his concerts.
Noel Roche had arranged to go to the concert with his girlfriend and aunt and uncle.
Eddie Rice drove Roche to the gig. Rice was 32 and hailed from Kilworth Road in Drimnagh. He was not a central member of the gang, but was a trusted lieutenant who was seen as very loyal to Rattigan, and especially to Noel Roche. He had a handful of convictions for relatively minor offences. Part of Rice's job was to run errands for Roche, and to generally make sure that he had everything he needed. While Roche enjoyed watching Phil Collins, Rice would have stood guard, making sure that everything was okay and that his boss had everything that he wanted.
At around 9.30pm, Roche and his girlfriend went out to the lobby bar for a drink. While he was there, either he or Eddie Rice saw somebody of whom they were suspicious. It is not known whether that person was a rival gang member or an associate of the Thompson gang, but Roche was concerned enough to leave the concert early for his own safety. He sent his girlfriend to tell his aunt and uncle that he had to head off. He dispatched Eddie Rice to the car park to get the car and pull up out the front, so he could safely leave the area.
Roche and Rice were unaware that they had been seen early in the night and were probably under surveillance while they were at the concert. A person inside the concert is known to have made a phone call to Paddy Doyle. He came out of his hiding place after the double murder two days before, and psyched himself up, ready to inflict yet another casualty on the Rattigan gang.
He summoned his driver, 21-year-old Craig White from O'Devaney Gardens in Dublin 7. White was a driver for the Thompson gang and quite low in the gang's hierarchy, but he was eager to learn the tricks of the criminal trade and was happy to do anything to please the gang leaders. He was driving a beige Peugeot 307 that had been stolen from outside a house in Blessington, Co Wicklow, five weeks previously.
Eddie Rice drove Roche and his girlfriend back across north Dublin to her apartment near Coolock. After dropping her off, Roche told Rice to make his way down the Clontarf Road towards town, and they would head into Temple Bar for a few pints. They were not being followed and were happy that they had left the Phil Collins concert without attracting any attention from the rival gang.
At around 10.25pm, a Peugeot 307 began to rev up behind Rice's Mondeo, attempting to ram it off the road. After getting the call and picking Paddy Doyle up, Craig White spent half an hour or so driving around to see if he could spot the Mondeo. The Thompson gang knew that Noel Roche had an offside apartment in Coolock, and headed in that direction to see if he had gone back to stay there. It was just sheer luck that they managed to spot Noel Roche on the Clontarf Road. The Clontarf Road is one of the busiest arteries that leads into Dublin city centre, with thousands of cars using it each morning. Even though it was late and there were few cars on the road, trying to pick out one car in a massive area of north Dublin was akin to finding a needle in a haystack, but Doyle and White were lucky. It is unclear if Roche knew that Paddy Doyle was in the front of the Peugeot with a gun, but he would have known that he was in serious danger, because he was not armed and was in an old car, and Eddie Rice wasn't turning out to be much of a getaway driver. Rice desperately tried to get his battered Mondeo away from Doyle and White, but his driving skills were no match for White, who refused to be shaken off. As Roche and Rice approached The Yacht pub, White managed to swerve across their path, leaving Paddy Doyle and Noel Roche side-by-side in the middle of the road.
Doyle whipped out a 9mm Glock and fired four shots in quick succession. His aim was accurate, and Roche was hit three times in the head, dying instantly. Eddie Rice slammed on the brakes as soon as the shooting started. He wasn't hit. He looked to his left and saw that his friend was dead. Although Rice was naturally shocked and covered in Noel Roche's blood, he fled his car. He began knocking on doors, trying to wake householders. Several people answered their doors in their nightclothes, only to quickly shut them when they saw a man covered in blood screaming frantically at them. Rice managed to make it into a back garden and escaped.
The Emergency Response Unit immediately flooded the streets of Dublin, and every garda was on red alert to look out for Rice, because it was feared that, as a potential witness, he might be the rival gang's next target. It seemed like he had vanished into thin air. The Garda helicopter spent the night searching for Rice from the air but without success.
Noel Roche's murder meant that his mother, Caroline, and father, Noel Snr, had lost two of their sons in just eight months. Caroline Roche knew that her sons were no angels and she also knew the intricacies of the feud. When she arrived at the scene of Noel's murder and saw him lying dead in the car, she immediately told gardaí that Paddy Doyle was responsible.
After being fingered for carrying out the three murders in less than two days, Paddy Doyle knew he was the most wanted criminal in Ireland, both by the gardaí, and worse still, the Rattigan crew. Roche and Rattigan had been very friendly all their lives. Brian Rattigan went absolutely beserk when Roche was murdered. A bounty of €60,000 was placed on Doyle's head. For the next few weeks, Doyle travelled around the city and out of the country with his head down and in heavy disguise – often going to such extreme lengths as to dress as a woman. He seldom stayed at the same address for more than two consecutive nights.
About a week after the Clontarf Road murder, Doyle went into Crumlin Garda Station and had a meeting with a senior detective. He said that he knew he was in the feud up to his neck and wanted a way out. The detective told him to admit to carrying out a crime, and he would see what could be arranged with the DPP's office. Doyle just looked at him and laughed, and said he would pass and take his chances. He did offer an insight into the way he was thinking, when he said that he thought that Freddie Thompson was a garda informant and that he did not trust him. He always suspected the worst of people and trusted nobody but himself. When the gangs became so big and began to make so much money, the friendships were replaced by business partnerships. Friendships seemed to be fickle and money was the motivator.
Paddy Doyle despised the gardaí, so the fact he was even talking to them showed just how desperate he had become.
Several gardaí were always struck by Doyle's vacant stare: he looked you in the eye, but his gaze penetrated you like you weren't even in the room. However, when Doyle said that he wanted to get out of the crime game, the senior officer in Crumlin believed him. The detective had heard this story dozens of times before, but knew that Doyle was genuine. Unfortunately, when you get into crime as deep as Doyle did, it is very difficult to get out. He was making tens of thousands of euro some weeks – he had more cash than he knew what to do with. It was believed that he had killed three men and would have to take responsibility for his actions.
A month after Noel Roche died, Paddy Doyle had enough of the pressure at home in Ireland and decided that he would have to leave the country permanently. He boarded a flight bound for Birmingham and then intended to head for Spain. When he passed through security at Dublin Airport, he probably knew in his heart of hearts that because of the massive price on his head, he would not be returning home any time soon.
Paddy Doyle was murdered in Spain in October 2007.
'Cocaine Wars' by Mick McCaffrey, published by Merlin, is on sale now, price €12.99
February 7, 2010