The Murder and the Evidence in Veronica Guerin's Murder
John Gilligan, a notorious Dublin criminal with 12 convictions, is believed by Gardai to have been the chief cuplrit in the murder of Veronica Guerin—he has been charged with the murder and his extradition from the United Kingdom is being awaited.
The evidence against him comes in the main from two criminal associates, Russell Warren and Charles Bowden. Both of these have been given immunity from prosecution in connection with the murder, although both have admitted their complicity in it. The immunity has been granted in return for their testimony against Gilligan. The Special Criminal Court, which will try Gilligan ultimately, will have to access the weight of their evidence, given by two witnesses who may be suspected of having a vested interested in testifying against their former associate.
Two motivations for the murder are ascribed to Gilligan. The first is that he wanted to prevent her giving evidence against him in court in support of a charge of assault on her. He would have expected to have been convicted on the basis of her evidence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. According to associates, he was determined not to serve a further prison term.
According to another source within the Gardai: “Gilligan went mad when he found out she was planning to expose him in the newspaper.” He didn't think, he just went mad. It wasn't so much the assualt charge, he would have only got about 12 months for that anyway, it was the exposure.”
Once the decision was made to kill her, according to the Gardai (and again such evidence will have to be tested in court) everything else fell into place. Whoever killed her had the people, and the resources. “To them it was just another job, they didn't think it through, they just took her out.”
According to Gardai, the evidence that Warren and Bowden are willing to give (and once again this evidence will have to assesed by the court) is as follows:
The murder was planned by Gilligan and executed by associates with clinical precision: one person supplied information on her movements; another stole the motorbike used in the killing; one primed the bullets used in the powerful .357 Magnum; two assassins were used to carry out the killing, while two more lay in wait to dispose of the bike, the clothes used by the assassins and the murder weapon.
In April 1996, Gilligan became the focus of a drugs and money laundering investigation by the Garda National Drugs Unit, codenamed Operation Pineapple. He had been released from Portlaoise Prison on November 7 1993, having served almost four years for warehouse robberies . Between November 1993 and 1995, he had accumulated enough wealth to buy an equestrian centre in Enfield Co Meath, valued at £4million and had acquired other assets. A substantial part of his wealth came from a lucrative business in smuggled cigarettes, but the greater part of his wealth came from the cannabis trade.
It emerged in subsequent court cases that Gilligan's drugs gang earned an estimated £16.8 million from 1994 until October 1996 .
Based on information supplied by John Traynor, Veronica Guerin travelled to Jessbrook on September 14 1995 to confront Gilligan about the source and sheer scale of this wealth, but Gilligan viciously assaulted her. The following day, Gilligan telephoned her at the offices of The Sunday Independent. “I am going to kidnap your son and ride him. I am going to shoot you. I am going to fucking kill you”, he allegedly said.
Given his association with Veronica and the nature of his drugs network, Gilligan became a number one suspect early on in the investigation, to which more than 100 officers had been assigned. “One of the things that set this investigation apart was the co-operation we were getting from other criminals; that was a large factor”, said a leading investigator.
In the course of the Lucan-based investigation, 102 guns were recovered, £3million cash and goods were seized and some 3,500 statements taken. A further £10m worth of assets have been targeted by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB). Apart from the core investigation, 75 people are facing charges for serious crimes, based on information gathered in the course of the murder hunt.
The first breakthrough in the case came on October 5 when gardai arrested a 33-year-old former army corporal, Charles Bowden. The following day, gardai raided a lock up garage at Harold's Cross, allegedly the hub of Gilligan's drugs distribution network. After some initial reluctance, Bowden told gardai that 33 shipments of cannabis worth some £2 million was brought from Holland to the garage over an 11-month period.
Bowden also brought gardai to a Jewish graveyard in Old Court in Tallaght, where an arsenal of guns and ammunition were uncovered. Included in the arsenal were 56 bullets used for a Magnum revolver, the type of gun used to kill Veronica.
The same day that gardai raided the warehouse, John Gillligan was arrested at Heathrow Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Amsterdam with £330,000 in his suitcase. He was charged under British drug trafficking laws, but his trial was halted when he was charged with the Guerin murder and 18 drug and firearms offences. His appeal against his extradition order was turned down by the London High Court but Gilligan has appealed to the House of Lords.
Meanwhile, as stated above, Bowden turned State's witness, following an arson attack on his home. He secured immunity from prosecution in relation to the murder, although he was later jailed for six years for drug trafficking. Bowden admitted he primed the ammunition used to kill Veronica. He also implicated a number of other gang members in the murder, one of whom was Paul Ward, of 112 Windmill Park Crumlin. Ward (34) was well know to the gardai having received the first of his 25 convictions in the Children's Court aged just 15. He also has been charged with the murder of Veronica Guerin.
According to Bowden, Ward was one of the key members of Gilligan's drugs network and he overheard Ward taking part in three discussions in which the planned murder was discussed. Some 16 phone calls took place between Ward and a second suspect Brian Meehan just before and after Veronica was shot six times by the pillion passenger on a motorbike, as she sat in her car on the Naas Road. Bowden, who is crucial to the State's case against Ward, will tell the forthcoming Ward trial, that Ward allowed his home in Walkinstown Road to be used as a bolthole for the assassins and that he got rid of the murder weapon.
Also there was his brother, Shay. Described as one of Ireland's original joyriders, Shay Ward (37) has 27 convictions, mainly for car theft. Ward is alleged to have helped dispose of the motorbike, a stolen Kawasaki 950cc. After the murder he tried to get a false passport on forms forged by John O'Neill (see story on John O Neill on page 22 in this issue of Magill). When that plan failed Ward fled to England in November 1996 and is now believed to be hiding in the Manchester area.
Crucial to the State's case against the killers is Russell Warren, the 34-year-old businessman from Tallaght who stole the motorbike. Warren, like Bowden, was put into a high security Witness Protection Programme after he agreed to testify against his former associates, including Gilligan, for which he received immunity from the murder charge. Acting on information supplied by John Traynor, Gilligan's main associate, Warren tailed Veronica in the van he used to collect money for the drugs gang. He followed her as she left Naas Courthouse and turned off towards Saggart, calling Gilligan on his mobile phone.
The sequence of mobile calls between Meehan, Ward and Gilligan will also form a part of the State's circumstantial evidence against the accused. On the day of the killing Traynor was in Naas hospital following a minor car crash, which gardai say they believe was staged. The Lucan team are currently compiling a file that is likely to lead to Traynor being extradited from Spain, on drug trafficking and firearms offences. “We have sufficient evidence to get him for drugs, but not for the murder” said a senior garda source.
With Traynor in the south of Spain, is Peter Mitchell, a 30-year-old heroin dealer from Sackville Place in the north inner city, who fled to the continent in November 1996. Mitchell is wanted for questioning about his alleged role in the planning of Guerin's murder. Both Traynor and Mitchell were behind the importation to Dublin of 150 kilos of cannabis late last year, according to sources at the Garda National Drugs Unit.
Brian Meehan (34) the alleged driver of the bike, was arrested in Amsterdam on October 10 last, along with his 21-year-old girlfriend Michelle Dwyer and John Traynor. They were later released. If the state succeed in having him brought back to trial, Bowden and Warren will testify that Meehan drove Patrick Holland to the scene of the shooting, whereupon Holland dismounted and allegedly emptied the Magnum into Veronica's body.
Meehan was reared by his grandmother in Fatima Mansions, a large flats complex in south Dublin, and then moved back to the family home at Stanaway Road, Crumlin. He has 15 convictions, including one for armed robbery on the Bank of Ireland, Grafton Street. His last conviction was for masturbating in front of a policewomen while detained in a Dublin police station in 1996 (hence the nickname, “the Tosser”). Later that year, Meehan and his father, Kevin were prevented by the Criminal Assets Bureau from disposing of £640,000 held in bank accounts in Austria and the Isle of Man.
In the course of his trial for drug trafficking late last year, gardai named Patrick Eugene Holland as the man who shot dead Veronica Guerin. In the early hours of April 9 last, the team of gardai sent to arrest Holland, as he disembarked from a ferry in Dun Laoghaire, were briefed by the Lucan-based team. According to a senior garda source, they were told that Holland pulled the trigger.
Holland, (58) denied he killed Veronica. Gardai have tapes of him changing £20,000 in Irish punts in a Bureau de Change in Holland in July 1996. When he was asked during questioning if that was the payoff for the murder, he re-iterated his innocence. When Holland stood trial in November last for drug trafficking, Charles Bowden testified that Holland was a major figure in Gilligan's drugs business. On 29 November last Holland was jailed for 20 years for importing two kilos of cannabis, in a much criticised conviction. The evidence against him was almost entirely that of Charles Bowden, the “supergrass”.