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Murder on the streets of Coolock and Darndale - how a pocket of north Dublin became a hotspot for lockdown violence

We look at the players in each criminal gang and the victims of the cycle of violence.

Gardaí examine the scene where Zach Parker was shot dead in January 2019.
Gardaí examine the scene where Zach Parker was shot dead in January 2019.
Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

THE POCKET OF north Dublin comprising Coolock and Darndale has seen its fair share of drug crime over the last two decades. 

More recently, the crack cocaine epidemic impacting many urban areas in the country has arrived to the area to compound those problems.

And in the last 18 months, the petty crime associated with such substance abuse has morphed into something even more sinister -  Darndale and Coolock have become the epicentre of a new drug war, resulting in multiple deaths.

Over the last four weeks, despite the lockdown measures, there have been shootings, stabbings and incidents of intimidation all within a five-kilometre radius. Gardaí are now in the process of investigating possible links to organised criminal elements which operate in the district. 

How did it come to this?

The bloodshed connected to this latest gang feud began in January 2019 when Zach Parker (23) was shot dead outside a gym in Swords. The low-level cocaine dealer was not, to deploy an often overused phrase, well-known to gardaí.

Parker had been caught with drugs previously but had turned his life around, becoming a barber. Those who knew him described him as a likeable, decent man. Parker was not in the cross-hairs of the garda units tasked with bringing down the major players involved in the north Dublin drugs scene – but he was someone else’s target. 

As he lay dead on the ground outside a gym, gardaí set to work untangling what had led to his murder. Although there were no obvious links to organised crime, gardaí believe Parker had gone back to low-leve drug dealing, racking up a debt from the crime group known as the Gucci Gang, headed by a young criminal known as Mr Flashy.

It is thought Parker had secured a relatively small amount of drugs, on credit, from the Finglas operation, which was later seized by gardaí. 

An important rule in gangland Ireland; seized drugs bought on credit are the buyers’ problem, not the supplier’s.

It is still an avenue of investigation that Parker was killed because of his inability to pay back the money he had secured on credit from the Finglas gang. 

Five months later – in May – the body of Sean Little, Zach’s close friend was discovered by gardaí in Walshetown, just off junction five on the M1 motorway.

1sean Little Sean Little and Jordan Davis. Source: Facebook

Little, who was also involved in low-level drug dealing, had vowed to avenge Zach’s death by going after his killer. Instead, he was lured to Walshetown, viciously assaulted, shot numerous times before being bundled into an Opel Insignia which was then set on fire.   

Just 24 hours later, Jordan Davis (22) was shot dead at Marigold Road, Darndale, as he walked with his young child. He was just four months old when his father was murdered in front of him.

Davis, Parker and Little were all close friends and it is thought the same gang is responsible for their deaths. 

Iranian national Hamid Sanambar attended the wake of his supposed friend, Sean Little, days after Davis was murdered. As he went to leave the house after paying his respects, Sanambar was shot multiple times in Little’s driveway. 

He had been suspected of carrying out the murder of Jordan Davis and had been paying his respects at the wake in a bid to show he was not involved in the feud, gardaí believe. 

However, Sanambar was a hitman for hire with no obvious loyalty to one gang. He had, in the past, been sanctioned by the Kinahan cartel to carry out acts of intimidation and gardaí suspect he is responsible for a number of murders in the State.

If Sanambar did have any semblance of loyalty, it would have been to his main paymasters, the Kinahan cartel. The Gucci Gang in Finglas is essentially a sub-cell of that organised crime grouping. Designed with impeccable attention to detail, these sub-cells were created to ensure no one member could have the requisite information to make any form of deal with authorities should they wish to turn tout.

The murder of Sanambar was the first real retaliation by associates of Parker, Little and Davis. Six months later in November 2019, there was more. This time, it was Eoin Boylan (22) who was shot nine times on Clonshaugh Avenue in Coolock. He was said to have appeared “too happy” about Little’s murder and a social media post in the aftermath of Little’s murder was his own death warrant, gardaí believe. 

The emergence of the Drogheda gangs

Miles up the road, the Drogheda feud was, at this time, well underway. It had started in the summer of 2018 with the failed murder attempt on Owen Maguire. Since then there have been over 100 reported incidents of violence, intimidation, serious assault and criminal damage.

As gardaí continued to police a feud which had claimed at least four lives in a 12-month period, in January of this year, a group of teenagers huddled around a sports bag which had been abandoned in the Moatview Gardens area of Coolock. 

Inside were some of the remains of teenager Keane Mulready-Woods (17), a local runner for a Drogheda crime gang, who was suspected to have been mutilated by another criminal hitman Robbie Lawlor. Lawlor himself was murdered in Belfast last month.

The Drogheda feud had arrived in north Dublin and heralded the arrival of feared Dublin gangs into the Louth war, which now encompassed multiple factions of Ireland’s criminal groupings, all with their own baggage, their own enemies and drug suppliers.

If the water was not muddied enough already, some who had been bashing heads with each other now found themselves on the same side of the Drogheda feud, putting cash above their differences for now. 

Robbie Lawlor, gardaí suspect was involved in the murder of Keane Mulready-Woods. He is the main person who links the Drogheda and Dublin gangs in this war. 

keane-47-390x285 Keane Mulready-Woods. Source: Facebook

Originally from Donaghmede, Lawlor had set himself up in Laytown, Meath, where he carried out criminal jobs for the gang which Keane Mulready-Woods belonged to. 

His brother-in-law Richard Carberry was one of the first fatalities in the Drogheda feud. He was shot dead in Bettystown, Meath in November 2019. Lawlor was incensed by Carberry’s murder and found himself carrying out more jobs for the gang, which is headed by two Drogheda brothers. 

But Lawlor had his own fair share of enemies, including Mr Big, a Coolock crime lord. Sources say the two men despised each other.

In 2018, Lawlor murdered Mr Big’s right-hand man Ken Finn in Moatview Gardens in Coolock. It was no coincidence that Keane Mulready-Woods’ body parts were dumped in the same estate. The message to Mr Big was not to mess with Lawlor. 

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Mr Big and the gang associated with the Maguires of Drogheda joined forces as a result – their common enemy being Lawlor. 

The hitman was murdered in Belfast in April when he went to collect a drug debt in the Ardoyne area in the north of the city.

His murder sparked scenes of celebration across parts of Dublin, Belfast and Louth as his enemies welcomed the death of the person who gardaí believed was one of the most notorious killers in Irish gangland history. Lawlor was the chief suspect in at least five murders.

Those celebrations were shared widely on social media. The street party videos included some of the big names connected with drug dealing in Coolock and Darndale. 

Lawlor was, and still is, a divisive figure in Irish gangland circles.

Only two weeks ago, a man was stabbed several times in the Marigold Park area of Darndale, the same area where Jordan Davis was murdered in 2019, because of purported connections. That man had been suspected of attending Lawlor’s funeral, effectively paying respects to a man who was behind the murder of Ken Finn, Mr Big’s closest friend and trusted lieutenant. 

Less than a week later, a motorbike sped by a house just 450 metres away from where the stabbing had happened. A gunman opened fire and shot a 19-year-old associate of one of the biggest crack cocaine dealers in the Coolock/Darndale area. The teenager survived the attack.

There was another shooting this week. A man in his 30s, well-known in the drug scene with over 60 criminal convictions including one for attempted murder, was shot outside his house in the Cromcastle area of Coolock. 

Gardaí are policing this area heavily. However, the violent incidents continue. 

Residents of Coolock and Darndale are suffering, their communities ravaged by drugs and the bloodshed which comes with them. 

Right now, gardaí are expecting more violence. The attacks are piling up, the animosity between a complex web of criminals is increasing exponentially and it’s the innocent family members of the deceased and maimed who are suffering the worst. 

Mr Big continues to control Coolock and large swathes of north Dublin. The Gucci Gang effectively owns Finglas and its environs and the Drogheda feud, with its interspersed links to crime in the capital, continues to rage. 

Tucked away in a pocket of Dublin where politicians rarely roam, a microcosm of Ireland’s criminal underworld where a vast network of criminals, each as aggrieved and armed as each other, plotting their next move to eke out a bigger profit. 

And, as is most often the case, they are known to gardaí. 

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