herald

Friday 24 January 2020

Gang war feared after thug Lawlor is released

Robbie Lawlor leaving court a free man yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts
Robbie Lawlor leaving court a free man yesterday. Photo: Collins Courts

Gardai fear a spate of gangland violence after the release from jail yesterday of one of the capital's most notorious criminals.

A major garda alert is in place for Robbie Lawlor (35), who was whisked away from outside the Criminal Courts of Justice in an Audi car after a charge of assaulting his ex-girlfriend causing her harm was dropped.

It was the only remaining charge after he was cleared of attempting to murder the mother of his ex-girlfriend's partner last week.

Detectives fear that Lawlor "will go to war" with the 'Mr Big' drugs mob as they have emerged as the chief suspects for the gun murder of Lawlor's brother-in-law Richie Carberry in Bettystown, Co Meath, last month.

They are also suspected of carrying out the brutal gun murders of Real IRA brothers Alan and Vinnie Ryan in 2012 and 2016 as part of a separate extortion-related dispute.

"There is sense of trepidation that this individual is back on the streets and there are serious concerns that it will lead to imminent gangland violence, especially in north Dublin," a senior source told the Herald last night.

"He was very close to Carberry and is aware that the 'Mr Big' gang are in the frame for that murder."

A security bulletin was issued to all Dublin garda stations late last week ahead of his imminent release advising that gardai "should exercise extreme caution" when approaching the dangerous father-of-three.

Last week, Lawlor was found not guilty by a jury of threatening to murder his former girlfriend's partner and of attempting to murder his mother. He was also acquitted of possessing a gun and of killing a dog.

He was acquitted of the five charges, including the attempted murder, following a trial in which his ex-girlfriend Rachel Kirwan retracted a statement she gave to gardai.

In it, she said Lawlor had threatened to kill her new partner Derek Mitchell and his mother Fiona Mitchell.

Gardai investigate the murder of Richie Carberry. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Gardai investigate the murder of Richie Carberry. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The criminal had been locked up in prison since being charged with the offences, which mostly related to incidents in January and May last year.

He had been refused bail in the High Court after a hearing heard evidence from a chief superintendent that if he was released, gardai believed that he would commit serious offences.

Fearsome

While in jail he had a number of disciplinary scrapes, including a serious violent incident last September in Cloverhill Prison in which he "badly beat up" a 28-year-old Tallaght man who was on remand in the prison on a north city murder charge.

After both Lawlor and the murder suspect received 'P19' disciplinary reports for the fight, which took place in a cell, the other prisoner had to be moved out of Cloverhill and into Wheatfield Prison - for his own protection.

"Lawlor had a fearsome reputation in jail, other prisoners were genuinely afraid of him," a jail source told the Herald.

Shooting victim Richie Carberry
Shooting victim Richie Carberry

"He was a complete fitness fanatic while he spent that time on remand."

Lawlor was also the victim of violence himself while in jail and in October 2018 he was stabbed in Cork Prison after getting in a row with now-free mob boss Cornelius Price.

With Lawlor out, senior sources say that there are "major fears" that the 'Mr Big' mob will attempt to murder him or that Lawlor's associates will target that gang.

His associates have been previously linked to a string of unsolved gun murders in the capital.

This includes the slaying of Mr Big's right-hand man Ken Finn (36) who died after being shot in the head in Darndale in February of last year.

The Finn killing, along with the recent fatal shooting of Carberry, have made the two mobs mortal enemies.

Mr Big's crew is considered the biggest drug dealing organisation on the northside and has also been involved in tiger kidnappings.

Meanwhile, their current rivals were investigated for the fatal shooting of Noel Deans (27) in January 2010 in Coolock.

They are also suspected of murdering David 'Fred' Lynch (26) who was shot four times in the head with a 9mm calibre semi-automatic pistol in March 2009, also in Coolock.

Ironically, a young close associate of slain Lynch has emerged as a suspect for actually carrying out the shooting of Carberry last month on behalf of the 'Mr Big' mob.

Lawlor's associates have also been investigated for the murder of Tallaght criminal Mark Byrne (29) who was shot dead outside Mountjoy Prison in May 2005.

At a Dublin District Court hearing in October 2008, it was disclosed that Lawlor was arrested as a suspect in the shooting of Anthony Ayodeji in Darndale in July 2008, who was shot as he held a baby boy in his arms.

The victim survived after he was shot five times as he sat in a car in Buttercup Park on July 4 that year.

Ultimately Lawlor was never charged in relation to that attempted murder but he has over 124 previous criminal convictions.

These include a 16-month sentence imposed in April 2015, for possessing a stolen car.

Other previous convictions include dangerous driving, public order offences and a five-year sentence for possessing drugs.

The recent trial, in which Lawlor was cleared of all charges, heard that in May 2018, a gunman entered Fiona Mitchell's garden and fired four shots, killing her dog Chopper and smashing a window and a patio door, and leaving a bullet hole in her front door.

Ms Mitchell described fleeing through front door as the gunshots were fired.

She told the jury that she saw Lawlor through her patio window in her back garden holding a gun moments before the shots were fired.

Denial

Lawlor denied any involvement in the shooting and his defence questioned the reliability of Ms Mitchell's evidence.

He was found not guilty of all charges against him by unanimous jury verdicts.

In the Central Criminal Court yesterday, Mr Justice Michael White struck out the only remaining charge against Lawlor, that of assault causing harm to Rachel Kirwan on an unknown date between December 2 and December 3, 2014, at Grangemore Crescent, Donaghmede.

Mr Justice White told Lawlor that he was entering a "nolle prosequi" and added: "You are no longer in custody on any matter and are free to go."

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