A close associate of slain Real IRA boss Alan Ryan yesterday pleaded guilty to the gun murder of a dissident republican at the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
Dean Evans (27), of Grange Park View Rise, Raheny, will be given a mandatory life sentence at the end of this month for the murder of Peter Butterly (35) outside The Huntsman Inn, Gormanston, Co Meath, on March 6, 2013.
Evans has been in custody since April, when he was extradited from Spain after spending 18 months on the run.
The IRA figure was one of three men charged in connection with the murder of Butterly and was previously named in open court as the actual gunman.
However, days before he was due to face trial in January last year, Evans disappeared along with his girlfriend, Stacey Roche, who had previously been the girlfriend of slain Real IRA chief Ryan (32), who was shot dead in 2012.
He was arrested in a flat he shared with Roche in Fuengirola in early April after gardai and Spanish authorities closed in on him.
Roche was not arrested in the operation and days later Evans was flown back to Ireland after he consented to his surrender to gardai and has been in the high-security Portlaoise Prison ever since.
After learning that Evans had been arrested in Spain, Mr Butterly's widow, Eithne, told the Herald: "I always knew that he would be located some day, and now I am glad that he will face trial for murdering Peter."
Evans is the third person facing a life sentence for Butterly's murder after the Special Criminal Court convicted Edward McGrath (36), of Land Dale Lawns, Springfield, Tallaght, and Sharif Kelly (48), of Pinewood Green Road, Balbriggan, last year.
Another man involved in the murder, David Cullen, turned State witness, and his murder charge was dropped.
Three other men are due to go on trial later this year on the same charge. They are Kevin Braney (43), with a last address at Glenshane Crescent, Tallaght; Michael McDermott (58), of Riverdale House, Garrymore, Ballinagh, Co Cavan; and Frank Murphy (58), of McDonough Caravan Park, Bettystown, Co Meath.
Evans was a very close associate of Alan Ryan and was also under threat from the 'Mr Big' crime organisation, which gardai believe had his pal shot dead after a bitter feud broke out between the two factions.
He was involved in a high-profile fundraising event for his slain pal, which took place in a Crumlin pub just weeks after Ryan was shot dead.
Despite a number of arrests, no one has been charged with Ryan's murder, which caused chaos within dissident republicanism.
Evans's brother Darragh was cleared in October 2013, of possessing an assault rifle and a handgun by the direction of the Special Criminal Court, along with Alan Ryan's younger brother Vincent Ryan.
In March 2014, the Herald disclosed that Darragh Evans was threatened with a handgun by 'Mr Big' in a bizarre incident in the Dolphin's Barn area of the capital but he escaped injury.
It previously emerged that Butterly was shot dead by his former associates in 2013 because he refused to pay €95,000 to the IRA after they accused him of stealing.
Butterly was targeted by the so-called New IRA after he refused to pay the €95,000 the organisation claimed he owed them.
Sources have revealed that Butterly refused to hand over the cash or even engage with his former associates after being summoned to a meeting in Co Tipperary just weeks before he was shot dead.
It is believed Butterly told another major IRA figure Aidan 'The Beast' O'Driscoll to "f**k off" when the cash was demanded from him, and he stormed out of the meeting.
'The Beast' O'Driscoll (37) was shot dead as part of a separate dissident republican feud in Cork on December 7, 2016, possibly by Dublin-based hitmen, gardai believe.
Meanwhile, in the weeks before Butterly was murdered in Gormanston, dissident republicanism had been in chaos after the murder of Ryan just six months earlier.
As part of the chaos, senior IRA figures attempted to collect debts owed and determined that Butterly owed €95,000, which they claimed he pocketed from criminal enterprises.
This included the proceeds of two armed robberies in Omeath and Dunleer in Co Louth, as well as a lucrative cigarette smuggling operation which was carried out with associates of the Kinahan cartel.
Sources say there is no actual evidence that Butterly "made any money" from these illegal enterprises, but IRA bosses with the "encouragement" of 'The Beast' O'Driscoll decided he had to be taken out.
The crew that was enlisted to carry-out the 'job' were all previously discredited dissident republicans because of their association with Ryan, whose extortion activities led to his murder in September 2012.
"They thought this was their way back into the IRA mob when they agreed to murder Butterly, but it all went very wrong for them," a source said.
During the 31-day murder trial that Evans failed to show up for, the Special Criminal Court heard evidence that the car used in the shooting, a stolen silver Toyota Corolla, was being watched by members of the Garda National Surveillance Unit.
Gardai observed the Corolla drive past the Huntsman Inn before making a U-turn and returning to the pub, entering its car park.
The driver, McGrath, was wearing a black wig. The gunman, Evans, was "crouched" in the back seat, behind McGrath. The window was rolled down.
The court heard that Kelly was waiting nearby with the getaway car.
The gunman fired two shots at Butterly's car. One struck the bonnet and the other hit the windscreen. Butterly ran from the car, pursued by the gunman who fired a number of shots, killing him.
The Special Criminal Court was told the Corolla left the car park at speed and gardai gave chase before ramming it in a "tactical stop".
McGrath and Evans, who had two cigarette lighters, were ordered out. Inside, gardai found firelighters, a petrol can, gloves, a wig and glasses.
A green Opel Zafira driven by Kelly then arrived and he was arrested. Gardai also stopped Cullen outside Gormanston College after he was seen picking up a bag - which contained a black semi-automatic pistol - thrown from the Corolla.
Firearms residue found on Evans' sweater showed "strong support" for the view he shot Butterly. It was also found on a jacket taken from McGrath, suggesting he had been present at the shooting and his DNA was found on the wig and a balaclava.
Kelly claimed he had been feeding his daughter's pony and was driving away from the stables when his car had "conked out". However, the court heard tests later carried out on the car detected "no faults".
Mr Justice Tony Hunt rejected Kelly's account as "inherently improbable and actually untruthful" and named him as the getaway driver.
He described the murder as "callous, brutal and premeditated," with both men who have been convicted so far as "performing their assigned roles".
In Eithne Butterly's victim impact statement, she told how her husband had "absolutely adored" their three children.
Addressing McGrath and Kelly, she told them: "Your cowardly decision and action has shattered our lives forever."