Suspect linked to Westie killings and Gilligan gang arrested in Spain
Irish man involved in organised crime in Spain among four held there on Wednesday
John Gilligan is the leader of the gang but has been working with an Irish man based in Spain in an attempt to re-establish himself there since his release from prison in 2013 after 17 years. File photograph: Getty
A man suspected of involvement in the gangland killings of two Dublin criminals known as the Westies and has been arrested for his alleged involvement with John Gilligan’s drugs gang in Spain
The suspect, a middle-aged Irish man who has long been involved in organised crime in Spain, was among four people arrested in the Alicante area on Wednesday.
The Spanish police believe the gang has been growing cannabis crops in the Alicante region and then selling them to customers in Ireland and Britain. The drugs have been delivered in parcel mail to customers in both countries and gardaí have also unearthed evidence that Gilligan has been selling loaded guns to criminals in regional Ireland.
Gilligan is the leader of the gang but has been working with an Irish man based in Spain in an attempt to re-establish himself there since his release from prison in 2013 after 17 years.
Gilligan was found not guilty of Veronica Guerin’s murder though he was jailed on drug trafficking charges. The Irish man with whom he has been working, arrested on Wednesday in Spain, was questioned previously by Spanish police about the murders of Shane Coates and Stephen Sugg, who were referred to in the media as the Westies.
Their murders in Spain in 2004 are perhaps the most notorious killings of any Irish criminals who had fled overseas in the past 20 years.
Coates (31) and Sugg (27) were involved in drug dealing and related violence in west Dublin but fled Ireland after becoming involved in a feud with local rivals and being shot, and wounded, in an exchange of fire with gardaí after a robbery at a firearms dealer’s house.
They were shot dead in Alicante in 2004, shortly after arriving in Spain and buried in concrete beneath a warehouse. Their bodies were not found for almost three years.
They were on the run from gardaí and are believed to have crossed more established Irish criminals in Spain. Their bodies were found after gardaí received intelligence as to the location of their remains and passed it on to Spanish authorities.
A unit in an industrial estate was excavated under a concrete floor and the bodies were found and cross-checked with DNA samples taken from their families in Ireland.
Gilligan (68) and five otherpeople were arrested last October in Alicante as part of a pre-planned operation by the Spanish national police, supported by the Garda and the UK’s National Crime Agency.
During the search operation, armed police stormed a house in which Gilligan was staying. The raid was part of a wider investigation into criminals using the postal service to send “marijuana and hypnotic drugs to the United Kingdom and Ireland”.
Spanish police at the time confirmed the arrest of the six suspects as well as the seizure of 4kg of cannabis and 15,000 pills and a Colt Python revolver, which had been buried in the ground. A further 4kg of cannabis and 11,000 pills were also found packed into parcels at four other properties.
After being arrested in Spain last October, Gilligan was freed on bail, but the investigation into his gang is continuing with the four arrests on Wednesday the latest part of the ongoing inquiry.