Claustrophobic cartel soldier ‘can’t cope inside’ and co-accused was looter during monster blizzard
Jailing a claustrophobic Kinahan cartel member who directed a sub-cell in a plot to murder Patsy Hutch is like putting "a man with arachnophobia in a cell with spiders", a doctor has told the Special Criminal Court.
An investigating officer also told the non-jury court yesterday that the cartel's main leadership operates in the Middle East and coordinates the organisation of its various sub-cells.
During the sentence hearing for Patrick Curtis and Mohammed Smew, Curtis' barrister told the three-judge court his client had compromised the integrity of his encrypted phone by using his personal one to take screen grabs of it to keep a record.
"This might be a clue as to his overall mental ability," he said.
Patrick Curtis (38), of Bellman's Walk, Dublin 1, has pleaded guilty to directing the activities of a criminal organisation within the State between February 1 and March 10, 2018.
Mohammed Smew (27), of Milner's Square, Santry, has admitted participating in the activities of a criminal organisation, to wit, the murder of Mr Hutch, by providing, moving and repairing vehicles and of the planning or assisting to plan an attempted shooting between February 1 and March 3, 2018.
They are the last two men to be sentenced for their involvement in the plan to kill Mr Hutch, the older brother of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch.
Detective Superintendent David Gallagher, of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, summarised the facts of the case.
He told prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane that the investigation occurred between February and March 2018 and the surveillance operation initially focused on a silver Mercedes car.
As the investigation developed, focus was placed on an Audi that was associated with Patrick Curtis and became the subject of audio surveillance.
"Ten individuals were identified as being involved and had provided a variety of roles," Det Supt Gallagher said.
The target of the Kinahan organised crime group was Patrick 'Patsy' Hutch, and the plan was to murder him as he left his house on Champions Avenue.
The investigation was concentrated on two particular addresses associated with Mr Hutch, the first being his house on Champions Avenue and the second was his daughter's address in Dublin 1.
Mr Hutch travelled on a motorcycle, which he generally parked in his front garden.
There were three stages in the plan to murder Mr Hutch.
The first was to set up a "staging post" at Belmont apartments which was midway between two locations associated with the target.
The second was a "ruse" to commit criminal damage to Mr Hutch's house or to his daughter's car "to lure" Mr Hutch from his home, while a "looker" would give the "hit team" the signal when he was on his way.
The third element was to have a "getaway location" at Stoney Road in East Wall, where the gunmen would go through a pedestrian tunnel and a car would be waiting on the other side to take them away.
Mr Gillane said Smew was one of two individuals chosen to carry out the ultimate killing of Mr Hutch.
In audio surveillance of a discussion between Curtis and a female acquaintance, he id: "They have so much money they could buy half of them Hutches to kill their own half. People are getting €20,000 and all for setting somebody up."
Mr Gillane said February 28 was set down as the date for the murder attempt on Mr Hutch.
Smew was asked in a recording "how good was his aim" and Smew replied: "In the back of his head, mate."
Recordings from inside the Mercedes showed a growing concern among the accused men about the arrival of Storm Emma, which created blizzard like conditions in Ireland.
Smew was separately arrested during the storm for taking part in the looting of a Centra store in Tallaght, when the shop had shut down in response to extreme weather conditions.
He was remanded in custody, which effectively ended his role in the plot to kill Mr Hutch.
On March 10, Det Supt Gall- agher said he was satisfied that the persons involved in the plot were imminently ready and in a position to carry out the murder of Mr Hutch.
An armed intervention was carried out by the Emergency Response Unit at Belmont Apartments on Gardiner Street .
Mr Gillane said two mobile phones were seized from Patrick Curtis' home, which showed his role and how his directions were to be carried out by the sub-cell.
One of the phones was an encrypted Aquaris device and was unable to be accessed.
However, a Samsung phone also belonging to Patrick Curtis contained a number of personal and private data as well as photos of messages taken from the encrypted device.
Gardai recovered a number of sheets of paper concerning the financial income and expenditure of the Kinahan gang sub-cell. A breakdown of the operation to murder Mr Hutch detailed a "starting balance" of €7,000. Curtis was arrested on March 27 and Smew the following day.
Under cross-examination, Det Insp Gallagher agreed with defence counsel Michael O'Higgins, for Patrick Curtis, that his client was handing out directions and also receiving directions.
The detective agreed with Michael Lynn, for Smew, that his client was not a member of the criminal gang but was a person on the ground who did what he was told.
Det Insp Gallagher agreed Smew had no means at the time and was living in a hostel.
Mr Justice Hunt said the best thing Smew had going for him was "getting involved in the shenanigans during the snowstorm that put him out of the picture".
Mr O'Higgins called Dr Conor McGarry, a GP attached to Portlaoise Prison, to give evidence for the first time in his career on behalf of a prisoner.
Dr McGarry said Curtis, who has been diagnosed with excessive compulsive disorder, has historic issues which have impacted on his ability to cope with prison.
He said the defendant got locked in a car at the age of seven and broke his fingernails trying to get out and suffers from a fear of being alone.
The witness testified that Curtis suffers from irrational behaviour and blesses himself around 60 times a day.
Claustrophobia is his main issue, and putting him in a cell is like putting a man with arachnophobia in a cell with spiders, said Dr McGarry.
Mr O'Higgins said Curtis was receiving directions from someone more senior and "making good" on those directions.
He agreed with Mr Justice Hunt that he was a "low-end director".
Mr O'Higgins handed in a detailed psychological report of his client and said the fact he has a level of guilt and remorse was a promising insight.
He asked the judges to be as lenient as possible when sentencing.
Mr Lynn, for Smew, asked the court to take into account that his client was a disposable person and his role came to an end in February.
His family are from Libya, but he was born in Ireland and grew up here with his six siblings.
Both his parents are doctors, and he embarked on a law degree but suffered a serious motorcycle accident that set him back and his mental health deteriorated.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, with Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Dermot Dempsey, remanded the two men in custody until August 31, when they will be sentenced.