Killing of soft targets a sinister turn in Kinahan-Hutch feud
Ratoath victim Noel Duggan was a criminal past the height of his powers
Gardai examine a BMW found burned out in Cairn Court near the scene of the fatal shooting of Noel Duggan in The Old Mill Estate, Ratoath, Co Meath, on Wednesday night. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins.
A middle-aged criminal past the height of his powers, Noel Duggan was one of the last of a dying generation.
A robber and smuggler, the 55-year-old was a career criminal who spent most of his life working on the wrong side of the law.
He came up in a Dublin crime scene where there was no gun culture to speak of. Young hoods like himself and close friend Gerry Hutch earned their spurs joyriding and house breaking before moving into more serious and organised crime, usually robberies and cash heists.
Duggan was shot dead outside his modest Co Meath home on Wednesday night because of his association with veteran Hutch, also known as ‘The Monk’ .
Duggan was regarded by the Garda as a key player in the cigarette smuggling trade; a €4 million demand from the Criminal Assets Bureau reflected his stature as a senior figure in the business. However, he was involved in neither drugs nor gun violence.
He differed from the younger generation of organised criminals who reach for a firearm to resolve even minor matters. Ironically, Duggan’s life has been snuffed out by those immersed in that very gun culture. And some gardaí believe Hutch could be next.
Both in their 50s, Duggan and Hutch had been easing into a quieter life, apparently with considerable wealth intact, despite having made major settlements with the Criminal Assets Bureau. They were strategic thinkers who never forget the purpose of crime was to make money rather than become involved in personalised feuds.
However, it appears the actions of Hutch’s nephew, Gary Hutch, cost Duggan his life, and will inevitably result in further bloodshed.
Gary Hutch (34), an armed robber and drug dealer from Dublin’s north inner city, did not last long in the shark-infested waters of organised crime.
However, he fell out of favour with the Kinahans to such an extent they murdered him near Marbella last September. The gang blamed him not only for being a police informer but also for plotting to kill some of their number.
But because Christy Kinahan knew Gerry Hutch and his family from his time in Dublin, a deal was made whereby the Hutch family would pay Kinahan a six-figure sum, and Gary Hutch would walk away from the drugs scene. In exchange, his life would be spared.
Having fled Spain in fear of his life, Gary Hutch felt safe enough to return there early last year but was eventually shot on the Costa del Sol.
There were appeals at his funeral back in Dublin a couple of weeks later for his killing not to be avenged. But with some of the trigger-happy criminal’s associates being heavily involved in organised crime, it was highly unlikely his murder would be simply shrugged off.
At the beginning of last month, when Dublin-based members of the Kinahan gang were attending a boxing tournament weigh-in, Gary Hutch’s associates stage a daring attack.
Five armed men - three dressed in mock SWAT-style uniforms and armed with AK47s - burst into the Regency Hotel in Drumcondra and opened fire. They shot dead Kinahan gang member David Byrne (33) and wounded two other men.
Two days later, the Kinahan gang struck back, killing Eddie Hutch, a brother of Gerry and uncle of Gary.
And now Gerry Hutch’s close friend Duggan appears to be the fourth victim in a volatile feud between two well-armed and well-resourced groups with a propensity for extreme violence.
But while a feud of that nature is a worry in itself; the murders and Eddie Hutch and now Duggan suggest this is a dispute bereft of any honour among thieves.
Eddie Hutch was a separated 58-year-old father of five who drove a taxi for a living. He was not involved in crime and certainly was never linked to gun feuding or drugs.
Likewise, while Duggan was an established criminal who had made millions from smuggling cigarettes, he was not regarded as a violent man.
Neither he nor Eddie Hutch had in any way crossed the Kinahan gang yet they were murdered simply because of their association with the Hutch family.
With the Kinahan group having killed three of the latest feud’s four victims so far, two of them soft targets based merely on their associations; the risk of the body count inexorably rising and for many innocent people to lose their lives is very real.