Gary Hanley knew his life was in danger. The Hutch gangster had been formally warned by the gardaí there was a credible threat to his life and handed the green GIM form (Garda Information Message). The news came as no surprise to the 31-year-old.

Gary Hanley knew his life was in danger. The Hutch gangster had been formally warned by the gardaí there was a credible threat to his life and handed the green GIM form (Garda Information Message). The news came as no surprise to the 31-year-old.
Gary Hanley has been a primary target of the rival Kinahan organised crime group since the feud between the two gangs dramatically escalated four years ago. He may have suspected that he was under garda surveillance but he didn’t know that a surveillance operation had been established not to catch him but to save his life.
A five-man assassination team had been put together to try to kill Gary Hanley. Liam Brannigan and Dean Howe were in charge of the team. Brannigan was a trusted and senior member of the Kinahan gang, his family connections attested to his pedigree.
The 37-year-old is a cousin of Freddie Thompson and Liam Byrne. Thompson is serving life for the feud murder of Daithi Douglas. Liam Byrne is the leader of the Kinahan organised crime group in Dublin. His brother David was shot dead in the Regency Hotel in February 2016, the murder that escalated the ongoing Hutch Kinahan feud.
Liam Brannigan
Liam Brannigan was not like his better known relations. Even though he had 28 previous convictions, all but two were for road traffic offences and, unlike the other gangsters, he was educated to third level.
He studied archaeology and history at University College Dublin, gaining entry by completing a one-year access programme. Intelligent and literate, he has often been seen carrying a book around with him in custody.
His fellow manager and supervisor was 34-year-old Dean Howe from Oakfield in Dublin.
Howe was well-known to the gardaí. He has 38 convictions, although 33 of them are for relatively minor road traffic offences.
Dean Howe
Howe was the conduit for those at the top of the Kinahan organisation. He took instructions from them and directed the foot soldiers on the frontline of the murder attempt, Alan Wilson, his nephew Luke and Joseph Kelly.
Alan Wilson was a well-known Dublin criminal but unlike other family members, the law hadn’t previously caught up with Alan and he had no previous convictions. The extended family includes: the hit man Eric Wilson, who is serving a lengthy sentence for murder in Spain; Keith Wilson, who is serving life for the murder of the gangland killer Daniel Gaynor; and John Wilson who was shot dead at his home in Ballyfermot in September 2012.
Alan Wilson
Alan first came to public attention after he was tried and found not guilty in July 2014 of the murder of Marioara Rostas. The teenager was shot four times in the head and body in 2008. Her body lay undiscovered for four years in a shallow grave in the Dublin mountains.
Alan was in jail during the trial serving a sentence for burglary and assault causing harm. However, he appealed that conviction to the Supreme Court and won because the court found he had been charged with a different offence from the one for which he had been cautioned and questioned.
The 40-year-old also succeeded in having another conviction for drug driving and a four-year ban overturned on appeal in 2012. In that case, the court found his arrest had been unlawful because even though he was “dazed and confused” in the car and subsequently tested positive for a benzodiazepine substance, he hadn’t been informed of the reason for his arrest.
Luke Wilson
Alan’s nephew Luke was recruited as the gunman. He has 36 previous convictions and survived an attempt on his life when he was 18 years old. His “lifelong best friend” 19-year-old Patrick McCann shot him in the face and tried to kill him. Luke is now blind in one eye and the sight in his other eye is “disappearing rapidly”.
Luke Wilson grew up in a dysfunctional family of cocaine and alcohol abuse. His mother died from a drug overdose and Luke lived with his grandmother. His “lifelong best friend” who shot him was jailed for 20 years.
The fifth member of the team was Joseph Kelly, a violent and dangerous heroin addicted recidivist criminal from Dublin’s north inner city. He started committing crime as a child and was sent to Oberstown Detention Centre at 14 years of age.
Joseph Kelly
From then on, Kelly’s life went into a downward spiral. His drug abuse worsened over the years and was exacerbated by the death of his brother, whose body he discovered in 2010, and the subsequent death of his sister in 2013.
Kelly has 64 previous convictions and is typical of the type of criminal lured into feud related crime for the Kinahan gang by the promise of big money. Kelly was to be the getaway driver. The gang bosses were to come to view him as the weakest link as questions arose over his competence.
Over 200 gardaí were involved in the operation to save Gary Hanley’s life which ran for 12 weeks on a 24-hour basis and cost over €1 million. They bugged the rival gangsters cars and vans and covertly watched the managers and gunmen for three months from August to November 2017.
They discovered that Hanley was to be shot dead at the home he shared with his partner and infant child in Marino in Dublin and that his partner’s car had been bugged. They removed two tracking devices from underneath it on 17 September 2017.
The gardaí also identified and concentrated on several cars including a Seat, a Renault Laguna, a white Nissan Primastar van and a white Volkswagen Caddy.
The cars were parked for a time before being moved around so as to avoid suspicion.
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Gardaí discovered the gang planned and carried out early morning reconnaissance trips from the north to the south side of Dublin city to establish the best routes for the murder and the subsequent escape. A 9mm was hired to be delivered to the prospective killers on the day.
The hit team also timed their trial runs and counted the traffic lights along the route. They identified “switches” and “burn spots”, places where they could change cars and set the cars they used on fire.
Gardaí used cameras, CCTV, undercover officers and bugging devices to gather evidence, the most incriminating of which came from the gangsters’ mouths.
“Is that one of the burn spots there?” Kelly asked Alan Wilson on 11 September 2017. He was referring to a place off Mount Street in Dublin’s south city.
“Yea, I’ll show you.” Wilson replied, “We’re going to drive the car in there and burn it there.”
The next day the conversation continued in the Primastar van.
“We’re going the usual route,” Alan Wilson said to Kelly, “I know Hanley very well.”
“Be on the ball,” Kelly warned him, “expect a call today. Have your yoke (handgun) with you.”
“Yea,” Wilson replied, “I always has it with me.”
“He goes to the gym at 5pm,” Wilson said to Kelly referring to their target. “If we get him at 5pm the inbound traffic is free-flowing,” Wilson replied. “I don’t like hanging around for anyone as that’s how you get caught.”
There was also a conversation between the two men about “tying a rag to a pole” at a junction so Kelly would know which turn to take on the day of the attack. Both men also knew that Gary Hanley had a bullet proof vest, a camera and a security door on his home. They wanted the shooting to take place in the open.
“Go and do what you have to do,” Wilson told Kelly, “The minute we see him, jump out of the van and do it.”
From early on in the planning the supervisors Dean Howe and Liam Brannigan were not impressed by the other three. Kelly in particular they felt was not pulling his weight and they chastised him several times.
“I don’t want to be going on,” Howe told Kelly, “but we all had have to do our jobs and we had to do yours”.
Howe was exasperated by Kelly’s inability to take even the most basic precautions, such as keeping his hood up and head down when around the courts or going in and out of shops, petrol stations or other places with CCTV cameras.
On 25 September 2017, as they were driving along in the bugged Nissan Primastar, Howe was recorded giving out to Kelly about a previous court appearance.
“That’s b***ix Joey,” he told him, “the day you went to court, you f**ked up. Don’t let it happen again.”
But it did happen again, this time in direct planning for the hit.
“You f**ked up with the job today,” Howe shouted at him on that occasion. “What are you getting paid for?”
A week later on 2 October, Howe was in the back of the van pouring petrol into bottles talking on the phone and looking for Kelly, or ‘Joker’ as they called him.
“I’m just sorting the juice … I’m separating it,” he told the caller, “let me know if you hear from Joker”.
Two days later (4 October), Howe again gave out to Kelly, this time for not moving one of the cars, and the day after that he warned him again, this time to cover up before he went into a petrol station to buy more petrol to burn out the getaway cars.
“We don’t want any silly mistakes, right?” Howe told him. 
This time in Howe’s eyes, Kelly got it right and was praised.
“Good man,” Howe told him, “you kept your hood up and your face down”. 
Three weeks later, however, both Howe and Kelly in the words of Howe “f**ked up” when they were carrying out their own surveillance on Gary Hanley. The Nissan Primastar had been specially adapted for that purpose with a small square hole cut in the blacked out windows and a chair beside it.
As they drove past their target’s home on 26 October 2017, Hanley was standing in his front garden. They immediately realised the van had been “clocked” or seen. The plan wasn’t aborted however; the van was burned out four days later but the preparations for the murder continued.
Brannigan – or ‘Branner’ as he was known – also gave the others directions specifically in relation to the murder route and what to do with the gun. He phoned Alan Wilson and Joseph Kelly several times a day but he too became increasingly exasperated by Kelly’s ability as a driver and his inability to follow orders.
“I just have to say mate,” he said to him, “I have to keep saying the same things to you. Everything I say to you to try to keep you safe, you just don’t seem to do it. Sharpen up! Have you got that?”
Luke Wilson’s somewhat strident views on the hit and the target were recorded in the Caddy van on 2 and 3 November 2017.
“He doesn’t even understand why our people want him gone,” Luke said of Hanley. “He’s such a f**kin’ idiot.”
 “I have a couple of ideas,” he continued, “you could sit in the back of the van and wait for him to come out.”
“The only time you see him is when he’s standing at the door,” Joseph Kelly replied.
“That’s the perfect opportunity,” said Luke.
The two of them then talked about the big security door and camera on Hanley’s home. They were worried that if he was standing at his door and saw them he could go back in and slam it and they wouldn’t be able to “get him”.
They also agreed it would not be a good idea “going at” the door with a crowbar as it would take too much time and alert the neighbours.
“It’s a Kamikaze idea, it’s a mad idea. Is there no one who can draw him out? Luke asked.
“I’ve no problem camping in the back of the van and waiting for an opportunity to get him because he is going to come out at some stage,” he continued. “I was told he comes out into the garden on the phone. That’s the opportunity we want to be taking.”
Kelly agreed: “It’s all about getting him, more homework needs to be done,” he said.
“We’re the ones risking our lives. No more jail. We want money, not jail.”
Alan Wilson and Joseph Kelly were also bugged talking about the hit in the van on 3 November 2017.
“Going at the door with a crowbar is f**king mad,” Kelly told Alan Wilson.
“The thing is,” Alan replied, “you chase him down handy enough”.
Wilson then explained to Kelly how it was to go down.
“Yea, you sit there (in the van), sit in the back with a handgun. Slip that back door open, run over, shoot him in the garden, can (run) straight down, head straight all the way to the route (the agreed escape route).”
While the foot soldiers may appear to have been satisfied with the plan, the managers Brannigan and Howe were not reassured. They were particularly worried on 6 November 2017, the day the murder was supposed to take place.
Howe was driving Brannigan around in the Renault Laguna and the focus of their concern was ‘Joker’ the driver.
“I just can’t be dealing with him,” Brannigan complained, “he just can’t take direction. Mate we can’t run with him, he’s not a good driver mate.”
Howe agreed. “Jesus Branner, he’s just the worst driver, he can’t drive nails.”
“Only for I have this other bleeding charge (a reference to another charge he was facing at the time),” Brannigan replied “I’d do all this myself.”
“It would put you in an early grave.”
As the on the ground supervisor with a central role in the oversight and management of the hit, Brannigan was also under severe pressure that day from those above him at the top of the Kinahan organisation.
“I’m getting it up the arse from my man” he complained to Kelly. “You’re breaking my heart. Tell him (the other gunman) to get ready and go do this sh*t tonight.”
Brannigan stayed in constant contact with the hit team that day. In the hour-and-a-half leading up to the planned shooting, between 6.22pm and 7.55pm, he phoned Alan Wilson and Joseph Kelly ten times giving instructions and demanding progress reports.
Alan Wilson told Luke and Kelly to collect the “toy” (gun). The rendezvous was a shopping centre in the Glasnevin Industrial Estate. Brannigan was on the phone to Kelly directing him down the Finglas Road.
“Past the Royal Oak, yeah,” he told him, “you have to head towards Glasnevin Cemetery”.
They drove in and waited in the Lidl car park. A cyclist arrived and handed over a rucksack with the gun, silencer and ammunition. Kelly was delighted when he finally got his hands on the weapon.
Kelly was delighted with the gun. “Lovely,” he exclaimed to Luke.
“Ah man we can bleedin’ crack him a hundred times. But don’t take a Kamikaze run at him. Only go for him if we know we’re going to get him.”
“Yea” Luke agreed, “don’t want him half way in and half way out of the door”.
“You don’t want to hit this fella, if he survives we won’t get paid,” Kelly warned.
“Yea I know,” Luke replied.
“This fella survives we get no pay,” said Kelly emphasising the point.
“Just leather him out of it in the chest,” said Luke. “Then he’s getting it in the crust of the head.”
The gunmen drove off towards the Marino at 8pm, down the Finglas Road on towards Fairview Strand. They were excited, laughing and making jokes.
“She’s fully charged alright”, Luke joked about the loaded gun.
The Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau had heard enough. The hit never took place. At 8.08pm that evening, armed gardaí stopped the van on Philipsburgh Avenue in Dublin’s north city. Luke Wilson and Joseph Kelly were arrested just 500 metres from Gary Hanley’s home.
The mood in the van and the tone of the conversation dramatically changed to reflect the new circumstances. The gunmen realised the game was up. “It’s the old bill, we’re set up, we’re set up,” Kelly exclaimed.
Luke was in the back with the dark holdall bag, which had a 9mm pistol with a silencer and 15 rounds of ammunition. He also had a black ski mask in his pocket.
Three containers of petrol were also found in the back of the van. Alan Wilson had got out of it before it was stopped but he was arrested on the Crumlin Road an hour later.
When the gardaí arrived for Liam Brannigan at his home less than 20 minutes later, the supervisor tried to get rid of the evidence. He ran down the concrete steps and threw away his phone but was caught. Two days later, his phone was found. A garda rang and retrieved it after he heard it ringing in the nearby grounds of the Church of St Nicholas of Myra.
They also found in Brannigan’s home a second phone with the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) and other identifying numbers scratched off and the box with the number for Alan Wilson’s phone.
The gardaí searched but couldn’t find Dean Howe. A year-and-a-half later, he gave himself up. His solicitor contacted the gardaí in April last year and the father-of-three arrived at Irishtown Garda Station on 13 May 2019 to be arrested by appointment. He’s been in jail ever since and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. He was jailed earlier this year for six years for a role the judge described as “high level” and “essential”.
The three who were to be present to carry out the murder were always seen as “dispensable” and the Special Criminal Court imposed substantial sentences on Luke Wilson and Joseph Kelly. 23-year-old Luke was jailed for 11 years. Kelly, who has previous firearms and explosive convictions, got 12 years.
Like Dean Howe, Alan Wilson was lucky that the maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder is ten years. With mitigation and his guilty plea taken into account, Alan was also jailed for six years.
The most senior member of the hit team was the only one to take his chances and plead not guilty. Consequently, he was the last to be convicted and was jailed on Friday. His headline sentence was eight-and-a-half years – the same as his fellow supervisor Dean Howe, but Howe’s was reduced to six because he got credit for pleading guilty.
Liam Brannigan got no such credit and was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison. However, Mr Justice Paul Coffey told him he would suspend the final six months if while in prison Brannigan completed a vocational course or completed the degree he abandoned in UCD for his career in organised crime.
The five cases have highlighted a discrepancy in the structure of sentencing. The maximum sentence any of the five could receive for conspiracy to murder Gary Hanley is ten years. The more senior members of the team, Howe, Brannigan and Alan Wilson got less than Kelly and Luke Wilson. Luke and ‘Joker’ were convicted of firearms offences which inexplicably carries a higher sentence that planning a murder.
It is an “anomaly” which the presiding judge at the Special Criminal Court has consistently commented on when sentencing gangsters. Mr Justice Tony Hunt said he was of a mind to impose more severe penalties on the foiled assassins but his “hands were tied” by the law.
Gary Hanley’s life remains under threat.
Gary Hanley
There have been three attempts on his life since the feud escalated in February 2016 – the most recent was last November. Hanley and Patsy Hutch were lucky to get out alive after shots were fired at them in Ballymun. They had been tricked into going to a meeting there.
The Hutch Kinahan feud remains live, if it has for the moment been disrupted.
Eighteen people have lost their lives in the feud but there hasn’t been a feud murder in two-and-a-half years.
In the past four years, the Garda’s Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau has seized 122 guns, including assault rifles and machine guns, €170m worth of drugs and €12m in cash as well as sterling and dollars.
The bureau has also intervened and saved the lives of more than 75 people, one of whom is Gary Hanley.
The plan to kill him, Mr Justice Paul Coffey said, was “lengthy, elaborate and significantly resourced”.
“But for the timely and efficient intervention of the gardaí,” he said, “Gary Hanley would have been shot dead”.