Russian mafia hitmen shot dead Dublin gangland member Paddy Doyle on the Costa del Sol, senior gardai claimed this weekend. Doyle, the survivor of a vicious criminal turf war in south Dublin which has claimed at least 10 lives, was gunned down in Estepona last Monday. Veteran detectives with the Garda Siochana's 'Operation Anvil', the drive against Dublin's crime gangs, said the 27-year-old had beaten up a close relative of a Russian mafia leader based on the southern Spanish coastline.
'From what our Spanish colleagues have told us, this was a professional Russian hit. There were 13 shots and we don't think they wasted a bullet. It has a military-trained assassin written all over it, possibly ex-special forces,' a senior detective told The Observer. 'The intelligence coming back from the Costa del Sol is that Paddy Doyle crossed the Russian mafia, which is something you do there at your peril.'
The officer said shortly after Christmas Doyle got involved in a brawl with a young Russian man whom he severely beat up. Unknown to Doyle, the man was related to a senior Russian mafia figure. True to form, on a warm afternoon in one of Spain's most popular destinations for tourists and holiday-home owners, vengeance was exacted in a ruthless fashion.
Doyle, a career criminal, had been the chief suspect in two murders carried out in his native city in 2002 and 2005. He had eluded the gardai and went on the run via Liverpool, Manchester and eventually the favoured destination for many of Ireland's crime lords, Spain's Costa del Sol. From there he helped run a drugs empire smuggling vast amounts of cocaine from Spain into Ireland.
But around 2pm last Monday, Doyle finally met his match. He was travelling in the front passenger seat of a BMW 4X4 driven by one Gary Hutch. As Hutch drove the car towards La Cancelada outside Estepona they were ambushed. According to eyewitnesses two men from a green car opened fire, smashing the windscreen and hitting the passenger door. Hutch crashed the car and he and Doyle ran for cover.
What happened next demonstrated a clinical, military-style ruthlessness on behalf of the attackers. One of the gunmen singled out Doyle and shot him at least twice in the head. At least 13 bullets were fired at Doyle who died at the scene. A terrified Hutch, meanwhile, crouched in terror and waited until the gunmen had left before presenting himself at a local police station.
Reports back in Ireland tried to link Doyle's murder to the feud between two criminal gangs that have been at war in the Crumlin-Drimnagh districts of south Dublin since 2001. However, a senior Garda officer and veteran of the force's 'Operation Anvil' revealed the real identity of Doyle's assassins - the Russian mafia.
Less than 24 hours after Doyle's murder, cocaine valued at about â‚¬9.2million was seized by Spanish police in Estepona close to the shooting. Doyle was on his way to meet a British criminal when his car was ambushed and this triggered speculation that his death was linked to the drugs haul, in which an Irishman was one of eight arrested.
But back in Dublin the officer with intimate knowledge of Doyle and his gang insisted there was a more prosaic reason for his demise.
'Doyle was typical of the third generation of gangland "soldier" from Dublin. He was aggressive, showy and started fights at a whim. He and his ilk are unlike the older Irish criminal types on the Costa who live a very quiet life and just get on with their business. Our intelligence suggests Doyle simply crossed the people you don't cross on the Costa, the Russians.'
This article was written by Henry McDonald, and appeared in the Observer on Sunday, February 10 2008 on p.21 of the News section.