Suspect in 1999 murder arrested at airport

A SUSPECT for a gangland murder which happened more than 10 years ago has been nabbed by gardaí as he tried to sneak back into the country.

The 40-year-old man fled abroad two days after gardaí found blood and brain tissue, but not a body, in a forest in Co Waterford in November, 1999.

Gardaí suspected it might be that of local man Martin Nolan, who disappeared days before, on November 10.

The father-of-two was due in court two days later to face charges relating to the sale of thousands of euro worth of ecstasy and cannabis.

The following July, human remains were found in the Clondonnell Woods, which is near the Tipperary border. It took four months of tests in Britain to confirm they were that of Mr Nolan.

The arrest of the murder suspect marks a major breakthrough.

It is understood that gardaí had received information that the man was due to travel into Dublin Airport on Thursday. Detectives from the south-east region set up a surveillance operation. They tracked his movements and arrested him as he walked through the Customs area.

He was brought to Waterford Garda Station and detained under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act. He can be held for up to three days.

Gardaí said it was too early to say if they would be in a position to bring charges.

Garda sources said the man does not have any significant convictions here, but was suspected of being involved in the same drugs gang as Mr Nolan.

After fleeing to the Netherlands, he had come to the attention there of Dutch police, suggesting he was a significant criminal there.

Detectives described Mr Nolan, aged 34 and from Tramore, as a “small time” drug dealer who was associated with bigger dealers.

They suspect that after the drug consignment he was later charged with was intercepted by gardaí, he became expendable to his bosses. “He didn’t have the money to pay up,” said one garda source.

He was reported missing on November 10 and a short time later there were reports of a gunshot in Clondonnell Woods, an area in the Comeragh Mountains. Blood and brain tissue found were analysed and DNA tests identified them as coming from the Nolan family.

A formal murder inquiry was launched on July 5, 2000, after badly decomposed remains were found in the woods. The remains were on a pyre which had been lit, but didn’t burn completely. They were confirmed as Mr Nolan’s in November.

More than 30 people were arrested by gardaí in their investigation.

One man, Gary Penkert, aged 37, from Waterford city, was subsequently charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information in relation to Mr Nolan’s death.

He had fled to the US but was extradited back to Ireland. He was found guilty in 2006. He was not suspected of the actual murder.


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