How time ran out for drugs kingpin

Crime boss Marlo Hyland was probably murdered by members of his own gang angry at recent Garda successes, writes Conor Lally

Crime boss Marlo Hyland was probably murdered by members of his own gang angry at recent Garda successes, writes Conor Lally

When any of Martin "Marlo" Hyland's drug shipments were intercepted by the Garda, there would inevitably be follow-up searches on the many houses he owned in west Dublin. And it wasn't unusual for gardaí carrying out the raids to find Hyland sitting at the kitchen table with his associates, presumably trying to work out how the operation had gone wrong and if they had a mole in the camp.

The 39-year-old and his cronies would never be fazed by the Garda's intrusion. If Hyland was in a house, you could be guaranteed there were no drugs or weapons there.

He stayed ahead of the game by keeping such risk at arm's length. He always let others take the chances, making sure they were handsomely rewarded for their efforts.


It was a shrewd and lucrative business model, and one that made him one of the biggest drug dealers in the country. In the end, though, he was a victim of his own success.

With armed robbery, gangland murder and other gun crime increasing at a runaway pace in early 2005, the Government and Garda hit back by establishing Operation Anvil. In hindsight, this was the beginning of the end for Marlo Hyland, the start of a process that ended with four bullets in the head and two in the back as he slept in his niece's house at Scribblestown Park, Finglas, last Tuesday morning.

Some €21 million has been allocated to Operation Anvil. The National Surveillance Unit was drafted in to covertly and overtly monitor members of armed gangs. A number of other specialist units were also involved, including the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Emergency Response Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

Hyland had been on the Garda's radar for nearly 15 years, but it was the intelligence gathered by Anvil that made gardaí truly aware of the vast extent of his activities.

He was the kingpin in a major drugs wholesale business. He ordered massive consignments of drugs from Irish dealers based in Spain and then got his most trusted gang members to take cash out to them to pay for the deals.

The drugs were delivered via air or sea freight or packed in the panels of doors of cars and trucks entering the State on car ferries. The merchandise would often be wrapped in coffee to put sniffer dogs off the scent.

Once here, the drugs would be collected from drop-off points by Hyland's men and delivered to houses in counties Dublin and Meath. Cannabis, cocaine and heroin would be cut into small deals and bagged, ready for sale. The drugs would then be taken by Hyland's middlemen and distributed to street dealers in Dublin or sold in large quantities to gangs in counties Limerick, Cork, Meath and Louth.

Hyland never handled the drugs himself. The only thing that passed through his hands was the money. He had learned this technique from another Finglas drug dealer, PJ Judge, whose gang Hyland was a member of in the 1990s and who once dated one of Hyland's sisters.

Judge was shot in the head as he left the Royal Oak pub on Finglas Road in December 1996. Hyland was with him on the night he was killed. After the murder, Hyland continued in the drugs trade but also became heavily involved in armed robberies on cash-in-transit vans.

IN RECENT YEARS Hyland also acted as a consultant offering advice to his contemporaries in the planning and execution of robberies and drug deals. He was also involved in sourcing firearms and stolen vehicles for robberies and shootings. However, in most cases he never even saw the items, he simply made the phone calls needed to organise their delivery.

He is believed to have sourced the getaway vehicle and possibly the firearm used in the murder last month of Baiba Saulite in Swords, Co Dublin.

Gardaí say Hyland enjoyed being regarded by his peers as a leading criminal to whom others would come to for advice. He was a father of at least three children but never married. He rarely went on overseas holidays and shied away from the other trappings of his profession, such as fast cars. He had a number of convictions for motoring offences, assault and malicious damage. However, the last time he was in prison was in 1993. He was never convicted of any offence relating to serious gangland criminality.

He once sued the Sunday World after it described him as a drug dealer.

He also bought a winning €250,000 lottery ticket from a man known to him and on collecting the winnings used them to explain much of his wealth.

He was known as a man who ran his empire more through conciliation than fear. He maintained control over those who worked for him by paying them well. However, his nerve held when the most unsavoury element of the drugs trade reared its head - shooting people dead.

In September 1996, when construction worker Michael Brady was shot dead, Hyland was arrested and questioned. Brady was once married to Hyland's sister, Julia, but in December 1985 raped and murdered her. Brady was jailed for 10 years but was shot after his release.

Gardaí also say Hyland ordered the murder last May in Raheny, Dublin, of money launderer and drug dealer Patrick Harte (42). Harte had flooded his native Finglas with drugs, which had brought down street prices. Hyland was angry that his former friend was muscling in on his patch and he had Harte shot.

In August, when €400,000 worth of cocaine and nine firearms were seized near Athboy, Co Meath, the drugs were traced to Hyland's gang. One of those arrested with the drugs was Drogheda man Paul Reay (26). Hyland feared Reay was about to turn Garda informer and ordered his shooting dead last month.

Under Operation Anvil, Hyland became the Garda's undisputed number one gangland target - so much so, that a spin-off investigation, Operation Oak, was established to target him and his associates. The results were almost immediate and are continuing.

Operation Oak has resulted in the seizure of drugs worth an estimated €15 million and the arrest of 30 criminals who worked for Hyland or were associated with him. Many are currently facing serious criminal charges relating to drugs and weapon finds. Some of these men have been before the courts a number of times in the last year, charged with very serious crimes committed on bail, and yet have been granted bail again.

HYLAND SIMPLY COULDN'T absorb these Garda successes and hope to continue as leader of his gang. His associates grew unhappy at the amount of Garda attention he was attracting. Some of them also became suspicious that while everybody around him was getting caught, he continued to evade the Garda. They wondered if he was supplying gardaí with information.

Garda sources insist he was not an informer. "He was a gruff man, not clever like that," said one senior officer of the informer rumour.

However, Gardaí visited him as recently as last Thursday week to tell him they had intelligence to that effect. He believed by varying his movements between up to eight houses he owned in Cabra, Finglas and Co Meath, he could stay ahead of those intent on killing him.

But borrowed time doesn't last forever. On Tuesday morning as he lay in bed a gunman pumped four bullets into his head and two into his back. The same killer took the life of Anthony Campbell, a 20-year-old from Greek Street in the north inner city who was unfortunate to be carrying out plumbing work at the house when the killers called.

The massive investigation into the double murder is centring on Hyland's own gang members. At the time of his death he wanted two of them dead. These two figure prominently on the list of suspects.

One is a well known heroin dealer originally from the north inner city. The other is another associate of Hyland's who feared his boss was going to have him shot and has been hiding out in England and Spain in recent months.

Professional gangland murders such as Hyland's are notoriously hard to solve. It is difficult to see why this case will be any different.

More certain, however, is that the battle for power between Hyland's associates is likely to be long and bloody.