herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Gun victim warned life was in danger before school hit

Benny Whitehouse who was shot dead in Balbriggan
Benny Whitehouse who was shot dead in Balbriggan
Deputy State Pathologist Michael Curtis, right, and Garda forensics at the scene of shooting. Clonard Street, Balbriggan, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Deputy State Pathologist Michael Curtis, right, and Garda forensics at the scene of shooting. Clonard Street, Balbriggan, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Deputy State Pathologist Michael Curtis, right, and Garda forensics at the scene of shooting. Clonard Street, Balbriggan, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view Gardai and forensics on scene of shooting. Clonard Street, Balbriggan, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Deputy State Pathologist Michael Curtis, right, and Garda forensics at the scene of shooting. Clonard Street, Balbriggan, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
The scene at Clonard Street, Balbriggan
The scene at Clonard Street, Balbriggan this morning

Murdered father Benny Whitehouse had been warned in the last fortnight that his life was in danger before being gunned down in cold blood yesterday.

Gardai believe that a rival gang who he had been openly and violently feuding with are responsible for slaying him after he dropped his young daughter to school.

A violent thug at the head of a rival faction is believed to have put the price on Whitehouse's head in a dispute that has previously spilled out into the streets of Balbriggan.

Gardai raided the suspect's house immediately after the murder but found nothing in their initial search.

Whitehouse's time was up when a lone gunman callously singled him out and blasted him at least four times in the chest, back and hand yesterday as he got into his car on Clonard Street.

He had just left his daughter into first class at the nearby St Peter and Paul School

"Whitehouse was at war with a very violent man and gardai are sure he died as a result of that. It is their main line of inquiry," a source told the Herald.

As well as killing Whitehouse (36), the murderer also shot his partner, Natasha White, in the leg in the attack.

She was left screaming in shock and agony as she watched Benny die on the street beside her. The getaway car used by the lone assassin was later found burned out in the Naul in North Dublin and it is believed he used a jeep that was parked at the site to make good his escape.

There was tight security around Balbriggan and north Dublin last night amid fears of a bloody and violent reprisal for this murder, the 45th violent death to have happened so far this year.

Local garda units are only too aware of how the violent rift between the fighting factions in the dispute Whitehouse was involved in can spill over into the streets.

Last November it reached a flashpoint when there were two violent incidents outside the same school Whitehouse dropped his child to yesterday.

In one incident, a man and his wife drove to St Peter and Paul School with the intention of dropping their two children off.

Five men in a Ford Transit van were waiting for the man and when his car pulled in, they jumped out of the vehicle and tried to grab him.

The man jumped back into his car and drove off at high speed, damaging a number of vehicles parked outside the school.

In a revenge attack, associates of this man waited outside the school and used baseball bats to smash in the windows of a Toyota Hiace van, whose occupants were linked to the crew who were in the van in the previous attack. Witnesses at the time told the Herald the Hiace mounted the footpath and almost knocked down a number of children. Both incidents were witnessed by dozens of pupils and their parents.

Whitehouse had been sent forward for trial earlier this month on charges of violent disorder, endangerment and criminal damage from the incidents at the school.

At the centre of the feud is a dispute over drugs with a Traveller crime kingpin who has taken over from slain drug dealer John Paul Joyce, who was shot dead in January 2010.

The crime boss has linked up with a major crime gang from Swords and has been trying to exert control over crime in north Co Dublin and its environs, including the Naul, and into Co Louth.

Two extended families have been sucked into the gang dispute with sources pointing out that the feud is becoming more entrenched as time goes on.

Yesterday's murder will pour fuel on the flames of the deep-seated hatred between the two factions, and gardai now fear all-out war as associates loyal to Whitehouse come to grips with his death.

"This killing won't settle any scores, it will only make things worse and what the gardai and the people of Balbriggan now fear is revenge attacks that could lead to innocent people being caught in the crossfire," one source told the Herald last night.

cfeehan@herald.ie

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