WHEN GARDAÍ established Operation Oak in Dublin three years ago, they could not have expected it would result in a sustained period of blood-letting. Three of four murders in Dublin in the past fortnight are linked to the fallout from the specialised investigation
Operation Oak was established to target a prolific Finglas-based gang of armed robbers and drug dealers led by Martin “Marlo” Hyland.
Initially the gang was one of a number of crime syndicates targeted under Operation Anvil, established in 2005 to tackle Dublin’s gun crime. Gardaí quickly realised however that Hyland’s gang was so big it warranted a dedicated investigation of its own.
Throughout 2006, about 20 of Hyland’s associates were charged with serious offences. More than €20 million worth of their drugs were seized. Gun finds were also made.
Hyland’s solicitor’s offices were raided by the Criminal Assets Bureau, which had begun investigating his property portfolio.
In May 2006, Hyland’s gang shot dead his one-time friend Patrick Harte. Harte (42) had tried to establish his own drugs business in opposition to Hyland.
In August 2006 the gang shot dead Louth drug dealer Paul Reay because they feared he was a Garda informer.
In November 2006, Hyland’s gang teamed up with Limerick’s Dundon-McCarthy gang. They carried out the murder in Swords, Dublin, of Latvian mother-of-two Baiba Saulite on behalf of a man who wanted her dead.
By that time, Hyland had simply become too prominent a figure. Not only was he the Garda’s main gangland target, he was also attracting growing media attention. His own gang members decided he was a liability and, in December 2006, he was shot dead as he slept in a house in Scribblestown Park, Finglas.
The attack also claimed the life of Anthony Campbell (20). The young plumber was working in the house when the killers came for Hyland. Gardaí believe the gunmen were in league with another Hyland associate.
It is this man who went on to take over Hyland’s gang and who is now at the centre of much of the violence of the past fortnight. Since Hyland’s murder, the new gang leader has been busy.
As well as running a multi-million drugs empire based in Finglas, he is suspected of involvement in major armed robberies. He has also ordered a number of gangland shootings, gardaí believe.
On Tuesday, Graham McNally (34) was shot dead in Coldwinters near Finglas. He was a very close associate of the man now leading Hyland’s gang. Gardaí believe he may have been shot on the orders of the gang leader, who feared McNally was plotting against him.
Last Wednesday week, heroin dealer Michael “Roly” Cronin (35) and James Maloney (26) were shot dead in their car in Dublin’s north inner city.
The shooting was linked to a drugs rivalry with the man now leading Hyland’s gang.
Gardaí believe the gang leader may also now kill the man he hired to shoot Cronin and Maloney. The gunman is a volatile drug user who will now be regarded as a liability by the gang leader.
Last August, armed robber Paul “Farmer” Martin was shot dead in the Jolly Toper Pub, Finglas. He had fallen foul of the man now leading Hyland’s gang.
In October 2007, armed robber John Daly was shot dead in his native Finglas. Daly, who once rang RTÉ’s Liveline programme from his cell in Portlaoise Prison, and his associates were feuding with the man who took over Hyland’s gang.
An associate of Daly was wounded twice in Finglas last November as part of the same feud. He survived after the gunman misfired several shots.