herald

Friday 28 November 2014

Mindless bloodlust of Crumlin-Drimnagh feud laid bare in court as White found guilty

Craig White pictured leaving the High Court.

IT was a cold winter's night when four shots rang out in the quiet Dublin suburb of Clontarf.

Within moments the middle-class seaside area was plunged into gangland mayhem after 27-year-old Noel Roche was blasted three times in the face and chest.

He was sitting in the passenger seat of a Ford Mondeo car on the evening of November 15, 2005, when he was murdered.

The fourth bullet missed him and lodged in the car.

He died just an hour after leaving the Point Depot where he had been at a Phil Collins concert.

When horrified residents nervously peered out their windows, they saw the Mondeo stopped in the middle of the road, near the Yacht pub, with the driver's door open and the lights still on.

By chance, a US tourist was passing in a bus and filming out the window with a camcorder when Roche was shot.

Details of the aftermath of the shooting were given in gruesome detail by gardai who attended the scene.

Garda Colm Mac Donnacha told the Central Criminal Court he looked through the driver's door and saw a man slumped backwards in the front passenger seat.

He also noticed four bullet holes in the passenger window. The man was clearly dead.

Residents from the Clontarf Road heard the shots that night.



Concert

An elderly woman tried to persuade herself it was fireworks until a man came to her door shouting for her to ring gardai and an ambulance.

Earlier in the night, Roche had been enjoying the concert with a group of relatives and friends.

Margaret McMahon, his aunt, said she and her husband had arranged to meet Roche and his girlfriend at the gig.

However, Roche left suddenly not long after it started and jumped into the Mondeo outside the venue.

He had been spotted by rival gang members and felt his life was in danger.

The car sped off but was followed by two men in a Fiat Punto car who then notified a so-called hit team, which included Craig White.

White (23), of O'Devaney Gardens in north inner city Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Roche but was convicted by the jury after only half an hour's deliberations.

White's fingerprints had been found on the handle of the bag containing the murder weapon.

His DNA was also found on the bag and on a pair of gloves that were found near the abandoned getaway car.

White was the driver while Patrick Doyle, who was subsequently shot dead in Spain, is believed to have been the gunman.

Roche was killed as part of the bloody Crumlin-Drimnagh feud which has claimed 12 lives.

Among the dead is Roche's brother John, who was gunned down in Kilmainham only a few months before Noel's death.

The street war centres on a dispute between 'Fat' Freddie Thompson and the rival Rastas gang.

It began nine years ago after one young drug dealer was blamed for supplying information to gardai about the activities of one of his then associates.

The tip led to the seizure by gardai of a €1.5m haul of ecstasy and cocaine in a raid on the Holiday Inn in Pearse Street in the city centre in 2000.

Less than a year later, the rift took its first victim, who was stabbed to death in Crumlin.

This was followed in July 2002 by the murder of the second victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons. He was shot with a handgun minutes after leaving his girlfriend's home.

That summer, gardai were starting to build a clear picture of both sides of the divide.

The main suspect for the 2002 shooting was Paddy Doyle, who was shot dead in Spain last year. However, his death was not connected to the feud.

In February 2004, Paul Warren (23) was shot dead in a pub in Newmarket Square. This was a revenge shooting for the 2002 murder.

Gardai suspect the 'hit' on Warren was carried out by John Roche, who himself was killed in March 2005.

In November 2005, when Noel Roche was killed, the feud had escalated dramatically as Darren Geoghegan (26) and Gavin Byrne (30) were also shot dead in Firhouse.

Roche was found shot dead in Clontarf in the passenger seat of a Ford Mondeo. Four shots had been fired into the car through a tinted passenger window.

A Peugeot car was abandoned on nearby Furry Park Road after the shooting.

Both Geoghegan and Byrne were shot in the head as they sat in their car. They had apparently arranged to meet their killers.

The two victims had been members of the same gang as Paul Warren.

Geoghegan had been the prime suspect for John Roche's murder.

In August 2006, Wayne Zambra (21) was shot in the head as he sat in his parked car off Cork Street.

The following month Gary Bryan (31), who was blamed for the murder of Warren, was shot dead in revenge.

The 10th victim, Eddie McCabe (21), was beaten to death in a laneway off Tyrconnell Road in Inchicore in December 2006.

And after a lull of more than two years, Shay O'Byrne became the 11th victim last March. He was shot in the back in front of his girlfriend and a baby outside their Tallaght home.

Anthony Cannon became the 12th victim of the feud after he was shot dead in Ballyfermot earlier this month.

cormacmurphy@herald.ie

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