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the slaying that shook a nation

Contrary to popular perceptions about contract killings, there was nothing sophisticated or well-organised in the planning of Steve Collins' assassination.

This became clear from the combined testimonies of five people associated with Murder Inc. - Lisa, April and Gareth Collins and brothers Anthony 'Noddy' and Christopher McCarthy.

In evidence they gave in the Special Criminal Court, the supergrasses revealed that the plot was first mooted in mid-March 2009. Nathan Killeen called around to Gareth Collins, who was staying with his sister Lisa and her boyfriend Christopher McCarthy.

Collins had been released from prison in January 2008 after serving three years and nine months of a five-year sentence for possession of a firearm. Killeen had a proposition for his pal.

"He asked me would I be interested in driving a car for him and that there would be a few quid in it for me. I asked him what was involved. He told me he'd explain more if I'd say I'd do it," Collins later told gardai when he broke his code of silence.

Killeen told him it was connected to "the pub up the road", which he understood to be the Steering Wheel. Collins claimed he knew it meant that they were going to kill the publican and he refused.

Killeen made a phone call to someone in prison and told the person on the other end to tell "the other fella I want him".

Wayne Dundon phoned back a few seconds later and Killeen gave the handset to the reluctant gang member. Collins said Dundon offered him €20,000 to "drive a car". He also offered him a kilo of "dirty stuff" - heroin.

Collins told gardai: "I got a bad feeling then and I knew it was something serious because they were offering me €20,000. Wayne tried to sweet talk me first and then got aggressive."

Dundon reminded the recalcitrant thug that he owed the family. Shortly after his release from prison, Collins robbed a car in Limerick to get back to Portlaoise where he was living with a girlfriend and his daughter at the time.

But the car belonged to Murder Inc., and the next day his sister April called to tell him Ger Dundon was out for his blood. Dundon claimed there was a kilo of cannabis weed hidden in the car and he wanted it back.

When Collins said he couldn't find it, Dundon demanded that he pay €4,000 for the drugs with another €1,000 on top to compensate for the car - which had already been stolen.

If Collins didn't pay up he was a dead man, and it didn't matter who he was related to. Jimmy Collins (father of Gareth and April Collins), however, smoothed the waters and it appeared to be forgotten - until he refused to drive the getaway car for Wayne.

"He started getting aggressive, saying I had stolen weed belonging to Ger and that I was driving the car."

When the call ended, Killeen seemed convinced that Collins would do the job and explained what they were planning. The gangster later told gardai: "They were going to whack Steve Collins the father above in the pub over what happened with Wayne getting 10 years over it.

"He [Killeen] said he was going doing the whacking and I was going doing the driving. He told me they had it all planned out and they had a fella who was watching the Casino which opened about 11am every morning and it was Steve Collins that opened then. It was definitely Steve Collins, the father, they were going for. He said he had the thing [gun] and was just waiting for a car to be sorted. He said they couldn't rob a car in Limerick as it would cause too much heat around."

In early April 2009, Killeen was in Lisa Collins' house and spoke to Gareth. The Murder Inc. enforcer called Collins over to the side of a burned-out house to talk.

killer

Killeen always held his hand over his mouth whenever the "Dublin guards" were around. If they had a line of sight on him, the killer wouldn't speak at all because he wrongly believed that the NSS crew were using directional microphones to listen in on their conversations. Unfortunately, they had no such technology.

"Nathan explained to me that they had a high-powered Mercedes and that they got it from 'smokes town', which was slang for Dublin. He told me they were getting ready to go and that he had his sister Ciara buy hats, scarves and gloves and stuff," Collins later claimed.

In the meantime, Operation Weston was being wound down by Garda HQ. It had been going on for just over three months and had seriously disrupted the gang's operations.

But such high-intensity operations were expensive and could not be sustained indefinitely. When the cops disappeared, the mob came back on to the streets.

On the morning of Holy Thursday, April 9, Nathan Killeen called to Lisa Collins' house looking for her brother. He was accompanied by James Dillon, who had been staying with Barry Doyle in a safe house.

terrified

Dillon was a cousin of the Dundons and, like everyone else in the gang, was terrified of them.

"Nathan said to me, 'Come on so, we're going doing that in a few minutes'. I said no, I told ye before I'm not doing it. He snapped at me. He was cursing me and said, 'What's going on?'."

Collins said that Killeen then made a call and hung up. A few seconds later, Wayne Dundon was on the phone again.

"This f**kin' fella won't drive the car," Killeen told his boss before handing the phone to Collins.

The gangster claimed that Dundon said: "You just drop them up and drop them back down again."

"He wanted me to drive Nathan up to the Steering Wheel pub. Nathan would go in the pub, whack Steve Collins and would come back out," Collins would later tell the Special Criminal Court.

But Gareth Collins still refused to take part in the killing. In his statements to gardai, Collins claimed Dundon then warned him: "I'll be out of here in a few months and you're f**kin' dead, you little pr**k ya."

Both Christopher McCarthy and Lisa Collins would also testify that they had witnessed some of the exchange between Killeen and Gareth Collins.

As he walked away, Collins said Killeen was still on the phone to Dundon. He was staring at Collins who claimed he heard him say: "What will I do? Will I give it to him?"

The last time Killeen had that type of conversation with the Dundons, James Cronin had ended up in a shallow grave with a bullet in his head.

Killeen then told his boss, "James Dillon is here", and handed the phone to the young man.

According to Gareth Collins, Dillon was "stuttering on the phone as if he couldn't get a word in".

Meanwhile, in Wheatfield Prison, Anthony 'Noddy' McCarthy was sharing landing G with the rest of Murder Inc., including his cousins Wayne and Dessie Dundon.

He would tell the Special Criminal Court in 2014 that some time after 9.30am on the morning of April 9 he heard Wayne Dundon roaring from inside Lebanese criminal Hassan Hassan's cell.

Noddy McCarthy walked into the cell and saw Wayne Dundon on a mobile phone shouting and screaming: "You'd better do this; you never do nothing for our family; you'd better do this or you'll be sorry. If you don't do it then you and your mother are going to be sorry."

McCarthy said his cousin was "hyper". He said that after Dundon got off the phone, when Noddy asked his cousin what was up he replied that he had "ordered James Dillon to go kill Roy Collins".

This apparent confusion over the target for the murder was because McCarthy had mixed up their names.

McCarthy claimed he told Wayne that he should not talk to James Dillon like that as he was "only a young fella". He was their cousin and was not involved in violence.

He said he then heard Wayne Dundon say to his brother Dessie: "That f**king muppet Gareth Collins wouldn't drive the car neither."

McCarthy said he then returned to his own cell, where he was "very stressed out" and "very angry" about what had occurred.

He said in court: "I didn't want it to happen. I was trying to figure out ways to stop it."

Noddy McCarthy said he considered talking to Dessie Dundon and reminding him that there had been a big outcry over the murder of Shane Geoghegan; for "something like this" there was going to be an even bigger uproar.

The gangster claimed that he wanted to contact a member of his family to tip off Steve Collins, but in the end he did neither. Around the same time, Nathan Killeen and James Dillon went to the Steering Wheel pub in a taxi to check if their victim was there.

They were both described as being "out of it" on heroin and one of them got sick along the way. Killeen walked into the Steering Wheel pub while Dillon went into the Coin Castle Amusements arcade next door, which was owned by Steve's eldest son, 35-year-old Roy.

They jumped in a taxi and went back to Lisa Collins' house where they changed their clothes. They made a petrol bomb and left to pick up the stolen car.

*****

That morning was no different to most mornings for Steve Collins. Two armed gardai escorted him from his home to the pub and they got there at 7.50am. Roy arrived to open up the arcade for the day at around 11am. He had taken on the business after returning to Ireland from the UK nine years earlier.

Life was good for the businessman. Roy was in the final stages of completing his dream home that he had built in picturesque Killaloe along the Shannon. He was planning to get married and he lived for his two daughters, 12-year-old Shannon and eight-year-old Charlie.

His father was very proud of his eldest boy.

"Roy and I were more friends and buddies than father and son. He came to see me as he always did before opening," Steve recalled. "The next day was Good Friday and he was going to go to IKEA in Belfast where he had spotted a bargain kitchen. He left me in good form and went in next door."

Around noon, the stolen Mercedes, driven by Nathan Killeen, pulled up outside the arcade and James Dillon went inside. When the Murder Inc. foot soldier spotted Roy he pulled an automatic pistol and fired one shot, which hit the father of two in the chest at close range.

Dillon turned and ran to the getaway car. As it sped down the road, Killeen collided with other cars four times before he abandoned the vehicle and set it alight about a mile away. Steve Collins didn't hear the single shot. The first he knew that something was wrong was when a member of staff ran in to say someone was bleeding next door.

When the publican rushed into the arcade he found his son in the corner. He was bent down on his hunkers and gasping for breath.

"I went over to comfort him and he said, 'Dad, I've been shot'. I could see the bullet on the ground and he kept saying that he couldn't breathe," Steve said.

"I tried to move him to his side and he couldn't move and every time I moved him it was making it worse so I jumped up and I called the ambulance.

"I held Roy and he just held on to me. He told me he loved me and he loved his mother and then Steven Junior came and we were both comforting him. When the paramedics came they gave him a shot of adrenaline and he bucked up a bit.

"Roy gave me a thumbs-up when we got him on to the gurney and into the ambulance. Steven went with him and I went back in to get the CCTV for the gardai to see exactly what was after happening. Steven rang me and said it wasn't looking good and that Roy had taken a bad turn. As they got to the hospital, he had a heart attack. I dropped everything and rushed out to the hospital.

"I could see the doctors working on Roy inside and we were told to wait in a family room and that they would tell us when he was OK.

"I couldn't believe when the doctor came and told me that Roy had had another heart attack and they couldn't bring him back ... so we lost him ... we lost our beautiful boy."

Within minutes of the shooting being reported, local gardai and the RSU converged on the Dundon/McCarthy stronghold. Before the cordite had even cleared in Roy's arcade, everyone knew who the culprits were.

hoodies

A detective unit from Henry Street Station spotted Dillon and Killeen walking with hoodies pulled tight over their heads.

The killers bolted in two different directions back towards Crecora Avenue. Several squad cars descended on the area and a house belonging to one of the McCarthys was surrounded.

Dillon was found hiding under bunk beds in an upstairs room, while Killeen was located concealed under insulation in the attic.

Meanwhile, in Wheatfield Prison, Noddy McCarthy read on the teletext service that a man had been shot in a pub in Limerick.

Some time after 2pm he met Wayne Dundon on the top of the prison landing and told him about the shooting.

Wayne tapped on the wrist of his watch hand and told him: "Steve Collins didn't believe me when I did that in court."

Dundon was referring to a gesture he had made to Steve during his trial for shooting Ryan Lee. McCarthy said he asked his cousin if the man was shot in the leg, to which Dundon replied: "As for him being shot in the leg, he's dead ... I warned James Dillon to kill him."

Wayne Dundon always kept his malevolent promises.

The rapid response of the local gardai quickly paid dividends. James Dillon didn't have a chance to clean up after the horrific crime. Forensic examination found firearms residue on his hoodie and a glove he was wearing.

Then, after 26 interviews over the following days, and a visit from his grandfather Bart, who had reared him, Dillon finally admitted: "I shot Roy Collins."

But just like Barry Doyle and the other young men who did Murder Inc.'s bidding, he would not implicate Killeen or Dundon. He was prepared to sacrifice his life for the sadistic thugs.

Steve Collins also knew the killer's family.

"Dillon was just another example of the disposable muppets the Dundons used," Steve Collins said.

"He had been well-reared and did his Leaving Cert. His grandfather Bart was a great community man. But when he got in with those evil animals they dragged the kid down with them and he murdered my son and destroyed our family."

The murder of Roy Collins was a murder too far - and his father decided to stand up and demand an end to Murder Inc.

His bravery would create a domino effect that ultimately brought down Ireland's most dangerous criminal gang.

It was early 2009 and the country was still reeling at the murder of Limerick rugby player Shane Geoghegan. The 28-year-old was gunned down as he walked home in Dooradoyle, Limerick, in November 2008, which led to calls for new legislation to deal with organised criminal gangs.

Steve Collins, a popular Limerick publican, and his family had stood up to Wayne Dundon in 2005 and provided key testimony against him in the Circuit Criminal Court. Dundon was subsequently jailed for threatening to kill Ryan Lee - a stepson of Steve Collins. Armed gardai and a specialist unit had been detailed to sit on the Dundon gang around the clock at their Limerick city base.

Gang members were stopped, searched and quizzed every time they moved in public. Yet from behind prison bars, Wayne Dundon decided that the time had come to enact a callous revenge on the Collins family.

In this exclusive extract from the book Murder Inc. by award-winning crime and investigative journalist Paul Williams, he details exactly how Dundon organised the brutal hit from a prison cell and how his cowed gang members arranged and carried out the horror killing.


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