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Sunday 13 October 2019

Hutch thug is guilty of gun raid on post office

Hutch gangster Keith Murtagh
Hutch gangster Keith Murtagh

A senior member of the Hutch gang under threat from the Kinahan cartel is facing further jail time after being convicted of the armed robbery of a Dublin post office.

The Herald can reveal that Keith Murtagh is being kept in an isolated wing with his associates in Wheatfield Prison.

The 34-year-old thug was previously jailed for taking part in a botched armed robbery during which he was shot and seriously injured by a garda detective.

It can also be revealed that prolific criminal Murtagh has been blamed by the Kinahan cartel for involvement in the Regency Hotel shooting.

This has led to at least two attempts on the life of Murtagh, one of which resulted in an innocent man being shot dead.

However, his links to the Regency shooting have been strongly denied by his family, and gardai have not found any evidence to support the suspicion by the Kinahan crime gang.

Murtagh had been considered a prime associate of the Hutch faction and has been kept with his associates while behind bars over security fears.

In April 2016, innocent father Martin O'Rourke was shot dead outside a pub in Sheriff Street, but Murtagh was the intended target of the attack.

Just weeks later he was again targeted as shots were fired at a house in Ballyfermot.

Detectives strongly believe that both incidents were carried out by the Kinahan cartel.

His sister, Nikita Murtagh, also received a three-year suspended sentence last year after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm which gardai believe was to be used against a Kinahan associate in Belfast.

Shotgun

In the case before the courts yesterday, Keith Murtagh, of Mariners' Port, Sheriff Street, Dublin, was alleged to have been one of two men who held up the Roebuck post office at Farmhill Road, Goatstown, Dublin, on January 5, 2016.

He had pleaded not guilty to robbery of €3,174.54, possession of a shotgun and possession of a shotgun cartridge.

His trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that his DNA was found on a shotgun cartridge in a car abandoned 400m from the post office.

On day 10 of the trial, the jury of three men and nine women returned unanimous guilty verdicts on all three charges.

Judge Melanie Greally thanked the jurors, who had deliberated for just under four hours. Murtagh did not react when the verdicts were read out.

His lawyer, Garnet Orange, told the court that it may be appropriate for a psychological assessment to be carried out and asked for time for this.

Judge Greally set a sentence hearing date for October 18 and remanded Murtagh in continuing custody to that date.

The jury heard that on the morning of the robbery, two men arrived at the post office in a blue Subaru Impreza.

The men, one armed with a handgun, the other with a shotgun, demanded money and access to the safe.

The raider with the shotgun discharged a shot at the counter in what prosecuting counsel Dean Kelly told the jury was a violent and frenzied robbery.

The raiders, who were wearing tracksuit bottoms, then used the stolen Impreza as a getaway car.

The car was found abandoned 400m from the scene and Mr Kelly told the jurors they could infer the raiders carried on in another car.

It was the State's case that a Renault Scenic was linked to the raid.

He said a Scenic was seen in convoy with the blue Impreza on the night the Impreza was stolen and a Scenic was seen passing near the post office on the morning of the robbery.

Routine

Two nights later, Murtagh was a passenger in a Scenic with his then partner when the car ran out of petrol on Coliemore Road in Dalkey.

Gardai stopped to assist them and returned with a can of petrol but a routine check found there was a minor road traffic offence outstanding and the car was seized.

Two pairs of tracksuit trousers were subsequently found in the back seat of the car. A forensic analysis of these identified fragments of glass which had the same refractive index as the glass from the post office counter.

A forensic scientist told the trial the glass found and the glass in the post office both had a refractive index which occurs in less than 1pc of glass.

The jury also heard that a shotgun cartridge found by investigators in the abandoned Impreza was found to have the defendant's DNA on it.

Previously, Murtagh was part of a gang that conspired to rob a cash-in-transit van in Lucan, Co Dublin, seven years ago.

Murtagh was wounded during the incident and one of his accomplices, Garrett Molloy (27), was shot dead by gardai.

Addressing the court during that hearing in 2010, he said the deceased was a very close friend of his and they had know each other all their lives.

Murtagh apologised to the cash van workers and gardai but added: "No one turned around to me and said: 'Put down the weapon'. I'm casting them as murderers."

Murtagh pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and possession of a weapon with intent to endanger life at Foxboro Road, Lucan on May 15, 2009.

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