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Man convicted by Special Criminal Court of Kinahan cartel murder plot

Liam Brannigan was charged with conspiring to murder Gary Hanley

Image: PA Images

THE SPECIAL CRIMINAL Court has found a 37-year-old man guilty of being at the “centre of the wheel” of a Kinahan Cartel plot to gun down Dublin man Gary Hanley.

Liam Brannigan (37) from Bride Street, Dublin 8, was today convicted of conspiring to murder Hanley at a location within the State between September 15 and November 6, 2017. Brannigan had pleaded not guilty.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey said the evidence against Brannigan derived from four areas, including covert audio recordings from several cars bugged by gardai. Armed gardai intercepted a Volkswagen caddy van just 500 yards from Hanley’s home on the night of November 6, 2017, when two men, Joseph Kelly and Luke Wilson, were found with a loaded semi-automatic pistol.

The evidence also included phone data extracted from the co-conspirators’ phones and the “interconnectivity” of these phones; sightings of the men by gardaí; and a montage of CCTV footage showing their movements, he said.

Four men, Joseph Kelly, Luke Wilson, Alan Wilson and Dean Howe, have previously all pleaded guilty to the same offence. Brannigan, who appeared in court today wearing a grey sweatshirt, nodded when Mr Justice Paul Coffey finished reading out his verdict.

Luke Wilson (24), from Cremona Road in Ballyfermot, Dublin, and Joseph Kelly (35) of Kilworth Road, Drimnagh, Dublin 12, were stopped by armed gardaí just after 8pm on November 6, 2017, after their bugged Volkswagen caddy was stopped on Philipsburgh Avenue. 

Mr Justice Coffey, reading his judgement, said almost immediately after the men were stopped, they could be heard on an audio recording, saying “It’s the old bill, we’re set up, we’re set up”. 

The court previously heard that during that arrest, gardai seized a 9mm Beretta semi-automatic pistol, a silencer, 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition, several phones, a rucksack and a container of petrol. 

Moments before their arrest, Kelly and Wilson had collected the rucksack containing the gun, silencer and ammunition from a cyclist whom they met in a Lidl car park in Glasnevin, the court heard.

The court heard that, before collecting the gun, Kelly took directions about where to collect the weapon during phone calls with a phone referred to as PB3. The user of the PB3 phone was previously referred to as “Mr PB3″ by the prosecution. 

Mr Justice Coffey said, at one point, Kelly relayed a conversation he had with Mr PB3 to Luke Wilson, telling Wilson there was a “set of apartments” nearby and “he’s going to get yer man to walk down”. This conversation, the court heard, was moments before they collected the gun from the cyclist.

It also heard that Mr PB3 had shared numerous phone calls with phones attributed to Luke Wilson, Joseph Kelly and Alan Wilson on the night of November 6th, 2017, and that Mr PB3 sought numerous “progress reports” from the men at a “critical phase of the conspiracy”.

Mr Justice Coffey said there was “no doubt” that Mr PB3 “had an agreement” with the other men to murder Gary Hanley. He said the court “cannot but be struck by the sheer number of connections” between the PB3 phone and the other men on the night of November 6, 2017.

He said it’s clear that Mr PB3 had a “central role” in the management and operation of the kill plot.

The court previously saw CCTV footage of Brannigan’s arrest at Hanover Court, Hanover Lane, Dublin 8, on November 6, 2017, less than 20 minutes after the arrest of Luke Wilson and Joseph Kelly. It heard that the CCTV footage showed Brannigan throwing “an illuminated item” into the air seconds before his arrest.

This morning, Mr Justice Coffey said it was “overwhelmingly probable” that the object Brannigan threw was the PB3 phone and that he discarded it “because he was the person who used it” to speak with his co-conspirators in the Volkswagen caddy that night. He said it was an “attempt to discard incriminating evidence before he was apprehended by gardaí”.
 
He also noted a secretly recorded conversation between two men in a bugged Renault Laguna on the morning of October 6th, 2017, at a time when a surveillance officer said they saw Brannigan and Dean Howe travelling in the vehicle. He said one of the males referred to the other as “Liam” and then later “Branner”. There was also mention of the first name of a person close to Brannigan.

Mr Justice Coffey said that the person referred to as Branner complained to the other man that “only for that other bleeding charge, I’d do it all myself” before adding that, “it would put you in an early grave”, in reference to the behaviour of one of his co-conspirators who couldn’t “take direction”.

The judge said these conversations were “significant identifiers”. He said “such is the overwhelming weight of the consistency and cogency” of the evidence connecting Brannigan to the operation, the non-jury court was in no doubt that he was involved in the murder conspiracy.

Seán Gillane SC, for the State, previously told the court the PB3 phone put Brannigan at the “centre of the wheel” of the kill plot. The phone was found by gardai two days after Brannigan’s arrest in the grounds of St Nicholas of Myra church on Francis Street, next to Brannigan’s home in Hanover Court.

“A la Casablanca, of all the yards in all the world that PB3 ends up in, it’s in the back yard of Hanover Court?” Gillane said.

Gillane argued: “If the court were to conclude that Brannigan is not Mr PB3, he would not just be a stranger to luck, he would be the unluckiest man to walk the Earth in the context of the evidence connecting him to this conspiracy.” 

Luke Wilson, Joseph Kelly and Alan Wilson (39) of New Street Gardens, Dublin 8 have all been jailed. Dean Howe (34) of Oakfield, Dublin 8, will be sentenced on March 3.

Luke Wilson, who also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a Beretta, was jailed for 11 years; Alan Wilson was given six years and Joseph Kelly, who also admitted a weapons charge, was jailed for 12 years. Brannigan will be sentenced on February 24.

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Olga Cronin

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