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Judge jails gangland 'hit for hire team' which included former British soldier

A three-man "hit for hire team" have received sentences totalling 36.5 years at the Special Criminal Court for planning to kill a member of the Hutch family before they were intercepted by gardai just 250 metres from their target's home in Dublin's north inner city.

Judge jails gangland 'hit for hire team' which included former British soldier

A three-man "hit for hire team" have received sentences totalling 36.5 years at the Special Criminal Court for planning to kill a member of the Hutch family before they were intercepted by gardai just 250 metres from their target's home in Dublin's north inner city.

The non-jury court heard that audio surveillance of the team - which included a British army veteran - picked up references to “the cartel” and “money all over the world”.

The garda investigation team were today praised for "excellent and intelligent police work" during the dangerous operation, which saw the gunmen caught "redhanded".

Gary Thompson (34) and his brother Glen Thompson (24) were each jailed for 12 years and six months. A third man, Afghan war veteran Robert Browne (35) was sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison.

Sentencing the defendants today, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt said this crime arose in the context of "an organised plan" and "lengthy preparations" to murder Patrick "Patsy" Hutch as he left his home. However, the plan as well as the participants in the plan had been "the source of constant garda surveillance".

"Numerous loaded, highly dangerous and effective weapons" had been seized by gardaí and "no restraint or reluctance" had been shown on the part of the accused, he commented, adding that these offences had arose out of criminality of a very serious nature.

Gary Thompson, with an address at Plunkett Green in Finglas, Dublin 11, his brother Glen Thompson, of Plunkett Drive, also in Finglas, and Robert Browne, of Phibsboro Road in Phibsboro, Dublin 7 previously admitted to unlawful possession of four firearms with intent to endanger life at Belmont Hall Apartments, Gardiner Street, Dublin 1 on March 10, 2018.

The four firearms included a 9mm Rak sub-machine gun, a .38 Special Calibre Rossi Make Revolver, a 9mm Beretta 92 semi-automatic pistol and a 9mm Makarov semi-automatic pistol.

The maximum sentence for such an offence is life in prison and the minimum sentence is ten years.

Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Hunt said that there were no circumstances to say that any of the accused man had acted under a threat. Recorded conversations had showed that there was a financial gain for them, he noted.

These offences were of the "utmost gravity" and extensive preparatory work had been carried out by each co-accused, he continued.

The main mitigating factor was that none of the accused could be characterised as a "high-level organiser" but they had clearly been prepared to assist "extensively" up to the point of the actual killing, he emphasised.

Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the judge said the firearms were loaded and had enormous potential for death and destruction, placing others in serious jeopardy at a well-populated city centre location. The judge said the headline sentence was 18 years imprisonment for each defendant in this case.

The evidence was particularly strong and the gunmen had been caught "redhanded" due to "the excellent and intelligent" police work, he commented.

The main mitigating factors were the men's guilty pleas and the judge said he would apply a 25% deduction on account of this, which reduced each man's sentence to 13 years and six months.

Referring to Glen Thompson, the judge said he was surprised he had been prepared to be involved in an "execution style murder" due to a family tragedy.

In mitigation, he noted his minor amount of previous convictions and reduced his sentence by a further 12 months. The three-judge court imposed a sentence of 12 years and six months on Glen Thompson.

Sentencing Browne, the judge said he accepted that he had taken instructions rather than giving them but noted that his military background might "have been relevant in a shooting such as this". The court has heard that Browne previously joined the British Army where he was well-regarded and did a number of tours in Afghanistan.

Browne had volunteered "a limited response" during questioning by gardaí, which the court was entitled to view as "material and significant assistance", said the judge. The defendant was sentenced to 11 years and six months in prison.

Following this, father-of-four Gary Thompson was jailed for 12 years and six months. All sentences were backdated to March 10 2018, when the three men went into custody.

The judge then addressed the three defendants saying: "Each of you were caught in the act. Had this been contested in full, there would have been little or no room for mitigation and would have resulted in a sentence close to the full 18 years".

In summary, Mr Justice Hunt congratulated Detective Superintendent David Gallagher from the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau on an "undoubtedly dangerous and difficult operation".

Facts of the case

At a sentence hearing on July 15, Detective Superintendent David Gallagher from the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, summarised the facts of the case.

Det Supt Gallagher told prosecuting counsel Ronan Kennedy BL that the investigation was an intelligence-led operation which occurred between early February and March 10, 2018.

It arose from confidential information received concerning individuals within an organised crime gang involved in a serious feud, targeting rivals in another group “for assassination”, he said.

The detective said that surveillance was carried out on a number of people suspected to be involved and this included a number of people who are not before the court.

Other individuals were acquired to conduct the attack but this changed in early March when the three accused men became involved and took over the role as “effectively the hit for hire team”, said the witness.

Most of the planning, logistics and financing were already in place by this time, he continued.

Glen Thompson first became involved on March 4 when he attended a meeting at a Santry coffee shop. Robert Browne “became visible” for the first time on March 6 when he was stopped driving his vehicle on the North Circular Road, an area of interest as it was near where the “intended target” lived, the court heard.

As a result of CCTV and audio recordings, it became apparent to investigators that there was a plan to murder Patrick "Patsy” Hutch at his address on Champion’s Avenue in Dublin 1.

Det Supt Gallagher said there were three parts to the plan and the first part was to move a van into an underground carpark at Belmont Hall Apartments, which was near Mr Hutch’s address.

This van was to be used as a “staging post” providing cover for the hit team while they were waiting for a signal that the target was on the move.

The second aspect of the plan was to have “a getaway vehicle” parked at Stoney Road in East Wall in Dublin 3 in order to provide “an escape route”.

The third part of the plan was to be in position in the van in the early morning of the attack in order to await a phone call from a “looker” who would have sight of the target as he was observed leaving his address.

The "hit team" would leave the van and get into a waiting vehicle and intercept and kill the target before heading for the getaway vehicle.

The white van was registered to a non-existent address and was subject to audio surveillance, explained the detective.

Visual observation and CCTV footage identified a Volkswagen Passat owned by Browne arriving at Collinswood in Dublin 9 at 9.51am on March 7 with the Thompson brothers.

The three men were seen getting into a van, which was parked at Plunkett Green and was driven to Finglas.

During this journey, a conversation was recorded between Gary Thompson and Browne in which “reservations were expressed” about another man not before the court. This man “eventually dropped out of the picture, he said.

Browne was heard on the recording saying: “I don’t like the way he wants to do Patsy.”

There was a significant conversation with references about “the cartel” and “money all over the world”. Following this, Browne said: “I’ll get you 15 grand out of this.”

On March 8, people not before the court were observed purchasing mobile phones and SIM cards, said the detective.

On March 9, a vehicle was moved from Finglas to Stoney Road and was parked up there until it was recovered by gardaí on March 10.

A transcript of another audio conversation showed "a level of forensic awareness" and Glen Thompson was heard saying “you want to watch what you are touching there” as well as a conversation about an attempt to disguise his appearance by wearing gloves and glasses.

Glen Thompson was also heard saying in the recording: “I’ll give you the Makarov" and Browne replied: “I’ll just use the little small one… you take the .38, I just want something just in case”.

Det Supt Gallagher outlined that Browne was conscious of not getting caught, with the defendant having said: “What I want is to get into the van and no one see us. It’s real quiet in there, especially with them gardaí.”

This was a reference to uniformed gardaí being stationed close to Mr Hutch’s residence on Champions Avenue, clarified the witness.

Referring to “young fellas” congregating in the area, Browne was also heard saying that there could be someone being paid “to watch his [Patsy Hutch] back”.

The garda operation moved from surveillance into an intervention operation on March 10 as it had reached a critical point.

The three men were seen travelling in an Audi through Finglas and the city centre at 7.14am before entering a gated underground carpark at Belmont Hall Apartments, which was located around 250 metres from Mr Hutch’s house.

The Audi reversed into a parking bay and parked up near a Ford Connect van which had been purchased on Done Deal in February and falsely registered.

Browne was driving the Audi, wearing dark clothing and a dark wig. Gary Thompson was the front seat passenger and his brother Glen was in the rear of the vehicle.

The three men were seen getting out of the Audi and getting into the Ford Connect van at 7.16am.

At this point, an “armed intervention” took place by members of the Emergency Response Unit and the three men were removed from the rear of the van and arrested.

Gardaí recovered a fob to open the gates of Belmont Hall Apartments from Gary Thompson’s waistband when he was conveyed to Store Street Garda station later that morning.

During his interviews with gardaí, Browne indicated that he had a drug debt and this was the reason he had become involved in the event.

Three pairs of gloves, a wig, three mobile phones, a water bottle, and several car keys were amongst the items found in the Ford Connect van.

Det Insp Gallagher said a Rak sub-machine gun loaded with 18 rounds of ammunition and fitted with a shoulder strap was found on the passenger seat of the Audi car.

A .38 Special Calibre Rossi Make Revolver with five rounds of ammunition and a 9mm Beretta 92 semi-automatic pistol were also found in the rear passenger seat of the Audi. Balaclavas were on the floor of the car and two red petrol cans were found in the boot.

The DNA profile generated from a water bottle found in the Audi matched Browne and the DNA profile attained from a Nokia mobile phone matched Gary Thompson. Furthermore, a DNA profile generated from a blue towel recovered from the Ford Connect matched Glen Thompson.

An analysis of the phones showed that they had been used by the three men, who had been in contact with each other as well as the person designated as the “looker”.

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