Man killed in west Dublin had links to Hutches and Kinahans

Eric Fowler (34) shot as he arrived home at Blakestown Cottages on Saturday night

Gardaí and technical staff examining a vehicle at the scene where Eric Fowler was shot dead at Blakestown Cottages in Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

Gardaí and technical staff examining a vehicle at the scene where Eric Fowler was shot dead at Blakestown Cottages in Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

 

A man shot dead outside his home in west Dublin on Saturday had family connections to both sides of the Hutch-Kinahan feud.

Eric Fowler (34) died at the scene after one or more gunmen shot him several times, including once in the head, as he arrived home in Blakestown Cottages just before 7pm. His killers had been waiting for him.

A silver Volkswagen Jetta believed to have been used by the killers was found burnt out nearby at Rusheeney Green near Clonee.

Detectives believe the murder was likely related to gangland crime but are keeping an open mind on whether it is connected to the Hutch-Kinahan feud which has claimed about 18 lives since 2016.

One family member of Mr Fowler has close connections to the Kinahan faction while another is associated with the Hutches. Gardaí are also examining if the killing is related to a separate gangland feud between two west Dublin factions.

Garda Supt Noel Carolan speaking to media at the scene at Blakestown Cottages, Co Dublin. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Garda Supt Noel Carolan speaking to media at the scene at Blakestown Cottages, Co Dublin. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Mr Fowler, a father of two, had been investigated for involvement in organised crime in recent years but was never charged with a serious offence. He had also been warned by gardaí on at least two occasions that his life was in danger.

Earlier this month he was banned from the road for two years for drink-driving.

“There are a number of strands in the investigation. We’re not going to focus on one but clearly organised crime is a strong avenue but there could be multiple other reasons. All aspects will be explored,” Supt Noel Carolan said at the scene on Sunday.

The dead man operated a car wash and valeting business from his home opposite St Peregrines GAA club. It is understood he had stepped back from the business in recent months.

In response to the killing, gardaí in Blanchardstown are to step up armed patrols and will concentrate high visibility around the Blakestown Cottages in an effort to reassure the public.

Gardaí responded to reports of a shooting in the area at 7pm on Saturday. They arrived at Mr Fowler’s home to find him lying in the driveway with several gunshot wounds.

He had been shot just after getting out of his car. Attempts to revive him failed and he was declared dead at the scene.

A crime scene was established and the area was examined by a State Pathologist on Saturday night before Mr Fowler’s body was removed for a postmortem. His car was also taken from the scene for examination.

Garda preserve a burnt out Volkswagen Jetta found at Rusheeney Estate near Clonee, following the killing in west Dublin. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Garda preserve a burnt out Volkswagen Jetta found at Rusheeney Estate near Clonee, following the killing in west Dublin. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Gardaí preserve the scene at a shooting at Blakestown Cottages, Co Dublin. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Gardaí preserve the scene at a shooting at Blakestown Cottages, Co Dublin. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

On Sunday, gardaí were continuing to interview neighbours and look at CCTV in the hope of identifying the killers’ movements before and after the shooting. Supt Carolan issued a three-part appeal for information:

“Anyone who saw anything suspicious at Blakestown Road, Blakestown Cottages, Hartstown Park and St Peregrines GAA Club last night between 5pm and 7pm, including joggers and drivers, particularly those with dashcams is asked to contact gardaí.

“Gardaí want to speak to people with information on the movements of the silver Volkswagen Jetta (registration 06-MH-3192) between December 18th, 2018, and 7pm on Sunday.

“They would also like to speak to anyone who saw people acting suspiciously around Rusheeney Crescent in Clonee either after the shooting or in recent days.

Those with information are asked to contact the incident room at Blanchardstown Garda station on 01 6667000 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.

“This man had a partner. His parents are alive. All those people were very traumatised,” Supt Carolan said.

Asked if he expected retaliatory shootings in the coming days, the superintendent said: “In all of these it’s a possibility but I suppose the main thing is the community knows they’re protected in the aftermath of this incident.”

The complex and changing nature of alliances and grievances between Dublin organised crime factions means it is often difficult to establish a reason behind a murder.

Garda sources say killings which may appear to be part of a wider feud are sometimes the result of a much more localised dispute, with individual criminals using the feud as cover.

The murder of 50-year-old Clive Staunton in Leixlip, Co Kildare, last month was initially believed to be part of the Hutch-Kinahan feud. Mr Staunton was a relative of the Hutches.

However, gardaí now believe it was likely related to the cigarette smuggling trade.