Rattigan henchman's killing may re-ignite bloody gangland war
A key lieutenant of the Brian Rattigan gang, who once pulled a gun on three gardai, was shot six times in Dublin's latest murder.
The body of Neil Fitzgerald (36) was found by a passing motorist at Hills Lane, Crooksling, off the N81 road between Tallaght and Blessington at around 9am yesterday.
He was an associate of convicted killer and drug dealer Brian Rattigan, who is serving life for the murder of Declan Gavin - the first man to be killed in the Crumlin- Drimnagh feud.
Fitzgerald, originally from the South Circular Road area, was only released from jail two weeks ago.
Gardai now fear the Crumlin- Drimnagh war that claimed more than a dozen lives could re-ignite as a result of the murder.
The fact that the hit took place so soon after Fitzgerald was released from jail leads investigators to believe that whatever triggered it stems from past rival gang activity.
Information that came to light last night also suggests that Fitzgerald recently had a drugs dispute with a Crumlin cocaine dealer who is considered a key member of the Christy Kinahan cartel and a close ally of 'Fat' Freddie Thompson since the genesis of the Crumlin-Drimnagh feud.
Despite the deceased's links to Brian Rattigan, the murder is not thought to be linked to the violent Kinahan-Hutch feud that has gripped Dublin's inner city in recent months and claimed seven lives since last September.
The fact that the target of last month's botched murder attempt at the Charlestown shopping centre in Finglas was also a Rattigan lieutenant leads investigators to now fear old scores in the bloody feud are being settled.
Gardai last night arrested a man and woman, both in their mid-20s, in relation to the murder. They are being held at Tallaght and Rathfarnham Garda Stations.
It is not known how Fitzgerald got to Hills Lane, but gardai are certain he was shot there because bullet casings were found nearby.
Gardai believe he was either driven there by his killers or - more likely - lured there for a meeting.
Some of the bullet casings from a handgun were found 10 metres away from Fitzgerald's body. An initial examination shows he was shot in the back of the head.
Gardai will be examining if Fitzgerald realised his life was in immediate danger and tried to escape before he was gunned down.
There was no attempt made to conceal the body, and gardai believe the killer or killers left the scene in a hurry.
Gardai are canvassing locals and trying to establish if there is any CCTV in the area that could prove useful for the investigation.
The probe is being led from Tallaght Garda Station, where Superintendent Peter Duff appealed to anyone who was in the Hills Lane or Crooksling areas, or who might have noticed anything unusual or heard gunshots on Saturday night or yesterday morning, to contact them.
Fitzgerald was released from prison two weeks ago after spending seven years behind bars for pointing a loaded gun at three detectives, driving a stolen car, and five counts of dangerous driving in July 2008.
The gardai, stationed at Kevin Street, were on duty at Dolphin House in the south inner city in July 2008 when they were approached by Fitzgerald, who was armed with a semi-automatic pistol and wearing a bullet-proof vest.
It later emerged that the gun, thought to be a Luger, was used in an attack on the family home of gangland rival 'Fat' Freddie Thompson in the Coombe months earlier.
Fitzgerald pleaded guilty to possession of a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition and to producing a firearm while resisting arrest at Dolphin's Barn on July 23, 2008.
He also pleaded guilty to driving a stolen car and five counts of dangerous driving on July 18, 2008.
Judge Frank O'Donnell said the description from gardai of Fitzgerald's driving was among the most alarming he had ever heard. He said a crash at that speed would have been catastrophic.
He imposed consecutive sentences totalling 12 years and suspended the final two years.
The community was in shock to learn of the grim discovery yesterday.
"It's a very quiet area and people are shocked that this could have happened there," said local councillor Dermot Richardson.
A number of residents expressed the belief that those behind the killings would need local knowledge to have chosen it as a murder site.
Fitzgerald was not identified by investigating officers until yesterday afternoon and work was under way to get in contact with his family.
A post-mortem is due to be carried out today.
There have already been more gun killings in 2016 than there were in all of 2015. A total of eight people were shot dead last year, but 10 people have been gunned down in 2016.