herald

Saturday 14 December 2019

Ryan murder plot pair on 'protection regime' over threat

Jeffrey Morrow (pictured) and Paul O'Beirne were jailed for their roles in Vinnie Ryan's murder
Jeffrey Morrow (pictured) and Paul O'Beirne were jailed for their roles in Vinnie Ryan's murder

Two criminals who received lengthy prison sentences for their involvement in the feud-related gun murder of dissident republican Vincent 'Vinnie' Ryan are on a special protection regime in Mountjoy Prison because of fears they could be attacked.

Paul O'Beirne (36), from Colepark Drive, Ballyfermot, was sentenced to nine years in prison and Jeffrey Morrow (37), from Burnell Court, Coolock, was jailed for 11 years last Wednesday.

The Herald can reveal that since going into custody, the duo are on "protection" which means they are separated from the general prison population because jail bosses have received intelligence of serious threats against both men.

O'Beirne and Morrow are not sharing a cell with one another.

While Morrow has been in custody since he was extradited from the UK in March of last year, O'Beirne has only been in jail since July 23.

It was on this date that both Dubliners pleaded guilty to facilitating a serious offence contrary to Section 72 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006.

Caught

Jail sources have revealed that neither of the men has been the victim of an assault since they were locked up but Morrow was disciplined after being caught with an illegal mobile phone behind bars in May.

The latest figures on protection numbers, dating from January 2019, show that 570 (14pc of the prison population) were on restricted regimes.

The bulk of them were on protection for their own safety, with most of them seeking the protection voluntarily.

The numbers on restricted regimes in Mountjoy increased from 126 (23pc of its prison population) in January 2016 to 237 (34pc) in January 2019.

Paul O'Beirne
Paul O'Beirne

Last week, we revealed that notorious gangster Alan Wilson was among the large number of inmates on protection in Mountjoy Prison.

Wilson (40), who conspired with his fellow gunmen to assassinate Dublin gangster Gary Hanley and was secretly recorded by gardai in discussions about the murder plot, was jailed by the Special Criminal Court for six years last Monday.

We revealed that he was locked up in a special "protection cell" for 23 hours a day because he ran to prison bosses for help after being sliced up in a jail attack in June.

Meanwhile, jail insiders say that O'Beirne and Morrow are also living a "lonely and isolated" life in Mountjoy Prison.

Outside court last Wednesday, Ryan's partner - and mother of his only child - Kelly Smyth said: "I'm happy that it's all over. For myself and my daughter's sake I just want to get on with the rest of my life."

Ryan was killed outside Ms Smyth's home in Finglas on February 29, 2016, when a gunman pulled up alongside his car and fired at least 13 rounds.

Vincent 'Vinnie' Ryan
Vincent 'Vinnie' Ryan

One bullet went through Ryan's head. Ms Smyth had taken their then five-week old daughter from the car only moments before the shooting.

The weapon used in the murder was a deadly Makarov PM-63 RAK submachine gun.

It is similar to the weapon used to murder Keith Walker (36), at a pigeon club in Blanchardstown in June 2015.

While the gun used to kill Walker was recovered by gardai, the machine-gun used in the Ryan murder was never recovered. There is no link between the two cases.

Feud

The brutal gangland murder of Ryan is classified by gardai as one of 18 murders linked to the deadly Hutch/Kinahan feud.

However, despite a massive investigation which cost hundreds of thousands of euro, detectives have not exactly established why Vinnie - a brother of slain Real IRA boss Alan Ryan - was murdered.

The evidence relied on by the prosecution included CCTV footage from O'Beirne's home showing him disposing of a seat cover that gardai linked to a car allegedly used in the murder by DNA testing of dog hair samples.

At the sentencing hearing, Mr Justice Michael White said both men knowingly associated themselves with a criminal organisation and the provision and destruction of the car were "vital" to the plan to murder Ryan.

He said he is convinced by the evidence that the car provided by Morrow and O'Beirne and then found burned out on a laneway near Naas, Co Kildare, was the one used in the murder.

He added that although he was not dealing with a murder sentence, "there was a proximity to this callous crime".

He noted that O'Beirne had 25 previous convictions, 24 of which were for minor road traffic matters.

"Considering his record I'm surprised he has got himself involved in this," he said.

Morrow, Mr Justice White said, is "completely different". He said Morrow, who had 120 previous convictions, had shown a "reckless disregard for law and order from when he was a young man".

He noted convictions for possession of a firearm, threatening to kill or cause serious injury and conspiracy to rob a cash-in-transit van of €1m.

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