Who is Keith Murtagh, intended target of latest shooting?

Hutch associate was seriously wounded by gardaí during botched robbery

 Gardai at the scene of the  shooting on Dublin’s Sheriff Street on Thursday  afternoon. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin.

Gardai at the scene of the shooting on Dublin’s Sheriff Street on Thursday afternoon. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin.

 

The career criminal believed to have been the intended target of the gunman who mistakenly shot Martin O’Rourke in Dublin’s north inner city was once shot by gardai.

Keith Murtagh (32), Lower Sheriff Street, Dublin 1, is closely linked to one of the gangs involved in the Hutch-Kinahan feud.

Gardaí believe his association with some members of the Hutch family made him a target for the would-be assassin who went looking for him on Sheriff Street early on Thursday afternoon.

The botched effort to kill Murtagh is seen as a feud-related event carried out by the Kinahan gang in its bid to inflict further violence on Hutch gang members and those close to them.

Gardaí suspect members of the Kinahan gang in Dublin are intent on further bloodshed to avenge the shooting dead of their associate David Byrne (33), Crumlin, Dublin, by the Hutch faction in the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, in February.

When Martin O’Rourke noticed the gunman carrying a firearm close to Noctor’s pub at about 12.30pm on Thursday, he tried to run. However, the killer - who had mistaken him for Murtagh - shot him in the head.

The killer then fled the scene of the shooting on a bicycle. The murder weapon and bicycle were discarded close by.

Mr O’Rourke, a 24-year-old father with a history of drug use who had slept rough in the past and more recently had been living in sheltered accommodation, died later in hospital. He had no involvement in the feud.

Murtagh is regarded as a key associate of Derek “Del Boy” Hutch, who is the brother of Gary Hutch and nephew of Eddie Hutch, both of whom have been shot dead by the Kinahan gang as part of the feud.

Armed gang

Murtagh was part of an armed gang which included Derek Hutch that conspired to rob a large sum of money from a cash in transit van in Lucan, Co Dublin, seven years ago.

Gardaí had intelligence about the plan to rob the van as it made a delivery to an ATM at a shop. They moved in as the crime was under way.

Murtagh was wounded and one of his accomplices, Garrett Molloy (27), was shot dead when gardaí opened fire.

Murtagh, with an address at Mariner’s Port, Sheriff Street Lower, later pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and possession of a weapon with intent to endanger life at Foxboro Road, Lucan, on May 15th, 2009.

He was sentenced to 10 years and Derek Hutch received 16 years.

At Murtagh’s sentencing hearing in 2010, Det Sgt Seán Cosgrove said the cash van containing three men was on its route in Lucan when it received a warning by radio that there was suspicious activity in the area.

When they stopped to refill an ATM, security man Tim McDonald got out to open the machine.

A car pulled up and two men in balaclavas got out and ran towards him.

One grabbed him and pushed him against the van while threatening to shoot him. A colleague inside the van saw what happened and ejected a cash box containing €40,000.

‘Drop your weapon’

Mr McDonald said he then heard a single gunshot and was sure he was going to be killed. He then heard gardaí call out repeatedly, “Drop your weapon”, followed by several more gunshots.

Det Sgt Cosgrove said there were another four men involved in the planned robbery and they had also been charged.

He said Garrett Molloy had grabbed Mr McDonald while holding a shotgun. He said officers had made themselves known before firing five shots, hitting both Murtagh and Molloy, and that the incident lasted about 16 seconds.

Murtagh had 42 previous convictions at the time, 24 of which were for road traffic offences, five for failure to appear in court, and the remainder for criminal damage, public order offences and theft.

He had been sentenced to three years in prison by the Circuit Criminal Court in 2006.

Det Sgt Cosgrove said Murtagh was not an organiser or leader and had been taking part in the robbery to pay back a debt.

He said he had claimed to be the organiser, but was doing this out of “a misplaced sense of loyalty or fear”.

Murtagh underwent emergency surgery and was arrested after he was released from hospital six weeks later.

After the evidence was heard at his 2010 sentencing hearing, Murtagh insisted on addressing the court and said the gardaí involved were murderers. He said the deceased was a very close friend of his and they had known each other all their lives.

He apologised to the cash van workers and gardaí, but added: “No one turned around to me and said, ‘Put down the weapon’. I’m casting them as murderers.”

The court was told he had been raised in a extremely violent household and was a vulnerable person.

He had some work as a film extra in the past, including a speaking part in the film version of Borstal Boy.

Terror

Judge Katherine Delahunt sentenced him to 10 years on the attempted robbery charge and eight years on the weapons possession charge, to run concurrently.

She said she had considered reports about his family background and the fact that he had left school early, but he had done well on a number of programmes he had engaged in since.

She said she also noted that Murtagh was suffering from depression, serious disfigurement and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his involvement in the crimes.

However, she said the crimes ranked about as serious as it gets in the Circuit Criminal Court.

She suspended the final two years of the longer sentence, meaning Murtagh was required to spend six years in prison once automatic remission of 25 per cent was factored into the eight-year term imposed.

“There can be no other terror worse for cash van workers than to have to stare down the barrel of a sawn-off shotgun,” Judge Delahunt said.

‘I’m still alive’

After sentence was handed down, Murtagh thanked the judge and shouted at gardaí: “I’m still alive, I’m still alive!”

While Murtagh is still alive today, his association with the Hutches very nearly cost him his life on Thursday when he could have become the fourth person to be killed by the Kinahan side in a feud that has cost five lives in just over six months.

That feud started with the murder of Gary Hutch (34) in Spain last September. Hutch was a one-time member of the Kinahan gang who was shot dead by the group because it believed he was an informer and was plotting to kill some of them.

His murder began a dispute between his associates in Dublin and members of the Kinahan gang based in both Dublin and Spain.

The feud has become known as the Hutch-Kinahan feud because one faction is linked to Gary Hutch and the other is headed by Christy Kinahan, a middle-aged Dubliner based in Spain who is regarded as Ireland’s biggest drug dealer.

After Gary Hutch’s killing, his associates back in Dublin waited more than five months before avenging his death. Storming into a boxing tournament weigh-in at the Regency in February, they shot dead Kinahan gang member David Byrne.

Since then, the Kinahan side of the feud has twice hit back at the Hutch side; killing Eddie Hutch three days after Byrne’s murder and shooting dead Hutch family associate Noel Duggan at his home in Ratoath, Co Meath, last month.

Duggan was a close friend of Gerry “The Monk” Hutch’s, who is the uncle and brother and Gary and Eddie Hutch respectively.