herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

Men who helped gang kill Ryan beg judge 'to leave light at end of the tunnel'

Vincent Ryan
Vincent Ryan
Paul O'Beirne
Jeffrey Morrow

Two men who helped a criminal gang to murder Vincent 'Vinnie' Ryan - a brother of slain Real IRA leader Alan Ryan - have begged for mercy.

Paul O'Beirne (36) and Jeffrey Morrow (37) yesterday asked a judge to leave "light at the end of the tunnel" when handing down sentences.

Earlier in the day, Ryan's partner Kelly Smyth said their daughter, who was just five weeks old when Ryan was shot dead, is beginning to ask what happened to her father.

"How do I explain to a three-year-old girl that her daddy is never coming home?" Ms Smyth told the Central Criminal Court.

O'Beirne and Morrow pleaded guilty to providing and destroying a stolen VW Golf that gardai believe was used in the "drive-by" shooting of Ryan (25).

O'Beirne, of Colepark Drive, Ballyfermot, and Morrow, of Burnell Court, Coolock, had denied murder when they went on trial last month.

However, after two weeks of legal argument, both men admitted facilitating a serious offence contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

Detective Superintendent Colm Murphy yesterday told the court that Morrow's 120 previous convictions included threatening to ram a garda with his car, conspiracy to rob a cash-in-transit van carrying €1m, and possession of a shotgun.

He said that gardai investigating Ryan's murder compiled vast amounts of CCTV footage and mobile phone evidence linking the accused to a silver VW Golf that gardai believe was used by the gunman who killed Ryan. He described how Ryan dropped off Ms Smyth and their daughter at Ms Smyth's home on February 29, 2016.

Another car then pulled up and fired at least 13 shots at Ryan's car.

Three bullets hit Ryan, including one to the head.

Gardai later found a burned-out silver VW Golf in a laneway in Naas, Co Kildare.

Convoy

Officers established that the car had been stolen in 2015, and that hairs on a sheet of tarpaulin found at O'Beirne's home matched those of one of the car owner's dogs.

Using CCTV footage, gardai found that after the shooting, the VW was driven in convoy with a Kia Sorrento, owned by O'Beirne's partner, toward where it was burnt out.

Later that afternoon, a Kia Sorrento arrived at O'Beirne's home and O'Beirne and Morrow got out.

The provision and destruction of the car was "vital" to the criminal gang's plan to murder Ryan, said Det Supt Murphy.

The two men, he said, knew of the existence of the criminal gang and provided and destroyed the car knowing it was used to carry out the murder.

Ms Smyth told the court that she and Ryan lived in their "own happy little bubble", but that the bubble was popped the day he was killed.

She said she had just brought her daughter from the car into the house when she heard a series of loud bangs and ran out to find her partner fatally wounded.

"I watched Vincent fighting for his life, struggling for every breath," she said.

"It is an image that will stay with me forever."

She said she fear his killers will now come back for her.

The disregard for human life shown by Ryan's killers, she said, was "evident by the time it happened, in the middle of the day, with children coming home from school".

Mr Justice Michael White extended his sympathies to the Ryan family and to Ms Smyth, whose statement, he said, had moved him.

Sentences will be passed on Wednesday.

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