CONOR LALLY, Crime Correspondent, and EOIN BURKE-KENNEDY
Gardaí are today carrying out house-to-house inquiries into the fatal shooting yesterday of a man in Finglas, Dublin.
The dead man, Colm Owens (34), of Dunsoughly, Finglas, Dublin, had no convictions for serious crime but was a known associate of some of Dublin’s most notorious gangland figures.
The Republic’s 16th gun murder of the year, he was wounded up to six times in the head and upper body by two men who crashed their getaway car and later abandoned it without burning it out.
He was a friend of Finglas gang leader Eamon Dunne, who was shot dead in a Dublin pub in April.
Mr Owens was also linked to one of two drug and armed robbery gangs based in Ballyfermot, Dublin, whose worsening feud claimed the lives of Kenneth and Paul Corbally in a gun attack last Monday week.
Gardaí are studying Mr Owens’s links to these figures in an effort to determine a possible motive for yesterday’s murder. They are particularly anxious to determine if it is in any way linked to the Ballyfermot feud as a possible revenge attack for the Corbally murders.
Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said there was “always a worry of tit-for-tat killings”.
He said while any link between yesterday’s murder and earlier fatal gun attacks had yet to be established, a heavy overt Garda presence was needed to frustrate gangs. “I would favour that, in-your-face policing, which has been working well in Limerick.”
As well as Mr Owens’s links to gangland criminals, detectives are also studying his personal life to determine if he was involved in any disputes that could have led to his murder.
The father of one and part-time taxi driver, whose partner died six months ago, was gunned down at work at about 12.10pm yesterday.
A masked gunman walked into the Corn Store, an animal feed warehouse, on the Grove Industrial Estate at Dubber Lane, Finglas, and singled Mr Owens out, discharging a large number of shots from a handgun.
A number of the dead man’s colleagues are believed to have witnessed the murder.
A getaway vehicle, a silver Audi A4, was driven by a second man and crashed into a number of other cars on Tolka Valley Road not far from the murder scene as it sped away. The men abandoned the 08 D-registered car on Carrigallen Road in Finglas South before fleeing on foot.
The killers, who gardaí believe panicked because patrol cars were pouring into the area, did not burn out the getaway car.
Gardaí are hopeful the vehicle will yield vital forensic evidence that could help solve the crime.
At a briefing in Finglas Garda station yesterday, gardaí said the getaway car travelled in the direction of Jamestown Road before turning on to the main Finglas dual-carriageway, and was heading in the direction of the Clearwater shopping centre.
Supt Dave Dowling, who is leading the murder investigation, said there were no reported injuries when the car collided with two other vehicles at the Tolka Valley Road junction. He confirmed local people saw two masked men running from the car.
State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy carried out an examination of Mr Owens’s remains at the scene. The body was then removed for a postmortem, which was due to be carried out this morning.
Labour’s justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said the killing once again showed the “viciousness” of the criminal gangs that were operating in our society.
“We know from previous experience that a murder like this is likely to set off another vicious round of tit-for-tat killings and there is a danger that, once again, innocent people will be caught in the crossfire.”
The industrial estate where the shooting took place was sealed off yesterday afternoon as members of the Garda Technical Bureau carried out a forensic examination.
Apart from the animal feed outlet where the victim worked, the remote industrial estate contains three other businesses, including a Fás-funded youth training centre.
A number of students from Finglas Community Training Centre were emerging from classes at the time of the shooting but left via a back entrance, away from the murder scene.
The centre’s manager, Conor Sludds, was horrified by the attack. He said the area was normally so quiet and out of the way that most people had difficulty finding it.
“I’m from Finglas and I’m aware of the gang situation, but when something like this happens 20 yards from where you’re sitting it makes you wonder about your own safety and the safety of others like the students.”