'How do I explain her daddy is never coming home?' - Two jailed for involvement in Vincent Ryan murder

Two men have been sentenced to a total of 20 years for helping a criminal gang to murder 25-year-old Vinnie Ryan, a brother of slain Real IRA leader Alan Ryan.

'How do I explain her daddy is never coming home?' - Two jailed for involvement in Vincent Ryan murder
Paul O'Beirne
Paul O'Beirne

Two men have been sentenced to a total of 20 years for helping a criminal gang to murder 25-year-old Vinnie Ryan, a brother of slain Real IRA leader Alan Ryan.

Jeffrey Morrow received the longer sentence of 11 years after Mr Justice Michael White detailed his history of crimes including conspiracy to rob a cash-in-transit van carrying €1m.

Paul O'Beirne was sentenced to nine years with Mr Justice White saying he finds it difficult to understand why a man with no history of criminal activity got involved in such a serious crime.

Outside court, Mr Ryan's partner and mother of his only child Kelly Smyth said: "I'm happy that it's all over.

"For myself and my daughter's sake I just want to get on with the rest of my life."

She described Vinnie as a "great father and a great man", adding: "We were looking forward to the rest of our lives together but sadly that was cut short."

Mr Ryan was gunned down outside Ms Smyth's home on McKee Road in Finglas on February 29, 2016, when a gunman pulled up alongside his car and fired at least 13 rounds. One bullet went through Mr Ryan's head, causing his death. Ms Smyth had taken their then five-week-old daughter from the car only moments before the shooting.

One bullet went through Mr Ryan's head, causing his death.

Ms Smyth had taken their then five-week-old daughter from the car only moments before the shooting.

O'Beirne, aged 36, of Colepark Drive, Ballyfermot and Morrow, aged 37, of Burnell Court, Coolock went on trial on June 24 last when they pleaded not guilty to Mr Ryan's murder.

Following lengthy legal argument, the murder charge was dropped and both men pleaded guilty to facilitating a serious offence contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006.

The court heard that they provided and destroyed a stolen Volkswagen Golf that the gunmen who shot Mr Ryan used in the "drive-by" shooting.

Mr Justice White today said both men knowingly associated themselves with a criminal organisation and the provision and destruction of the car were "vital" to the plan to murder Vinnie Ryan.

He added: "Every human life is valuable and these criminal organisations, by the way they behave, have no respect for human life."

He said he is convinced by the evidence that the car provided by Morrow and O'Beirne and then found burnt out on a laneway near Naas, Co. Kildare, was the one used in the murder.

He added that although he is not dealing with a murder sentence, "there was a proximity to this callous crime which the court considers a very serious aggravating factor."

He noted that O'Beirne had 25 previous convictions, 24 of which were for minor road traffic matters.

He said a section 4 assault conviction was for "going too far" when he was trying to apprehend someone who was breaking into cars on his street.

Vincent Ryan
Vincent Ryan

He said: "Considering his record I'm surprised he has got himself involved in this. He doesn't seem to be involved in criminal activity before this offence."

Morrow, Mr Justice White said, is "completely different". He said Morrow, who has 120 previous convictions, had shown a "reckless disregard for law and order from when he was a young man".

In particular, he noted Morrow's convictions for possession of a firearm, threatening to kill or cause serious injury and conspiracy to rob a cash-in-transit van of €1m.

He added: "At the time of this offence Mr Morrow was inextricably linked up to a criminal organisation and had made choices in life in relation to that and that is a very serious aggravating factor."

He said a mitigating factor for both men was their guilty pleas which, he said, were "of some substantial assistance."

He said both men have close connections with their children and were described as "committed fathers" by their partners.

He added: "Yet we have the striking situation that their activities have assisted in a child being left without a father for life.

Mr Ryan's daughter was only five weeks old and will never see her father again.

Due to the extra aggravating factor, he set a headline sentence of 14 years for Morrow and 11 years for O'Beirne.

Considering the mitigating factors he reduced Morrow's sentence to 11 years and O'Beirne's to nine years.

Their sentences were backdated to reflect the time they have already spent in custody. The judge also formally struck out the murder charges.

Detective Superintendent Colm Murphy told reporters outside court that the conviction and sentencing of the two men, "show An Garda Síochána's determination in combating organised crime gangs".

Vincent Ryan's murder was brutal, callous and shocking, carried out in broad daylight in a residential area as young children made their way home from school.

"He had just dropped off his partner and five-week-old daughter and as they entered their house Vincent was shot dead in the car outside."

He added: "I would like to thank the many people who gave evidence during the trial.

"I would also like to acknowledge the words of Justice Michael White in commending the members of An Garda Síochána who investigated this murder to the highest professionalism."

Provision and destruction of the car was 'vital' to the plan

During a sentence hearing earlier this month, Det. Supt Murphy told prosecution counsel Paul Burns SC that gardaí investigating Vinnie Ryan's murder compiled vast amounts of CCTV footage and mobile phone evidence linking the two accused to a silver Volkswagen Golf that gardaí believe was used by the gunman who shot Vinnie Ryan.

He described how Ryan dropped off his partner Kelly Smyth and their five-week-old daughter at Ms Smyth's home on February 19, 2016.

Another car then pulled up and fired at least 13 shots towards Mr Ryan's car. Three of the bullets struck him and one struck him in the head causing his death.

Gardaí later that day found a silver Volkswagen Golf that had been burnt out on a laneway in Naas, Co. Kildare.

They used the chassis number to identify it and found that it had been stolen from the home of Joseph Cogan in October 2015.

Gardaí found a sheet of tarpaulin in a bin in O'Beirne's home following the murder of Vincent Ryan.

Forensic DNA analysts examined the sheet and found dog hairs on it, which they matched to one of Mr Cogan's dogs.

Using CCTV footage gardaí traced the movements of the Volkswagen and found that after the shooting it had driven in convoy with a Kia Sorrento owned by O'Beirne's partner towards where it was burnt out.

Later that afternoon a Kia Sorrento arrived at O'Beirne's home and both O'Beirne and Morrow got out.

The provision and destruction of the car was "vital" to the criminal gang's plan to murder Vincent Ryan, Det. Supt Murphy said.

The two men, he said, knew of the existence of the criminal gang and provided and destroyed the car knowing it was to be used to carry out the murder.

Vinnie Ryan's partner Kelly Smyth told the court that he was a proud dad having just celebrated the birth of his daughter five weeks earlier.

She said: "He lived for his family but he only had five weeks with his daughter.

He was such a proud dad and loved showing her off.

She said they lived in "our own happy little bubble" but the bubble was popped the day he was shot dead.

She had just brought their daughter from the car into the house when she heard a series of loud bangs and ran out to find Vincent fatally wounded.

She said: "I watched Vincent fighting for his life, struggling for every breath. It is an image that will stay with me forever."

She said she lives in fear that his killers will come back for her.

"I'm a prisoner in my own mind," she said.

Every time a car pulls up outside her home she jumps up, thinking they have returned for her.

Their daughter, she said, is beginning to wonder what happened to her daddy.

Ms Smyth asked: "How do I explain to a three-year-old girl that her daddy is never coming home?"

The disregard for human life shown by Vinnie's killers, she said, was "evident by the time it happened, in the middle of the day with children coming home from school."

In a message to those involved in the shooting, she said: "You have gained nothing because you never knew Vincent and he never knew you."

This article was amended at 4.10pm on July 31.

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