In Irish gang murder, a long list of suspects


DUBLIN, Ireland - Thinking he was safe because his wife was sitting next to him in the front seat of his Mitsubishi sedan wasn't Seamus "Shavo" Hogan's first mistake - but it was certainly his last.

As he parked outside his favorite pub last Saturday night , a masked man used a shotgun to blast out the windshield, while a second stepped forward with a handgun and fired a half-dozen bullets into Hogan as he sat behind the steering wheel. Lily Hogan was sprayed with broken glass and her husband's blood, but was otherwise unhurt.

Those who assassinated Hogan in the parking lot of the Transport Club in the Crumlin section of Dublin cornered him like a rat, which is what he was. Hogan, one of the city's most notorious criminals, was also one of its most brazen informers - a gangster who stayed out of jail by putting others in.

Hogan, 48, served six years in prison for shooting at police who were pursuing him after a robbery in 1988. He styled himself a tough guy, but he couldn't do time, and vowed never to go back to prison. Accusing him of being an informer, other inmates had attacked Hogan in prison. Guards rescued him as they were trying to use a knife to cut his ears into a point - to resemble a rat's.

When Hogan was freed in 1994, he let police know he was more than willing to trade his friends and criminal associates for his freedom, police sources say.

A career criminal, Hogan had tried to reinvent himself more than once, fronting a group, the Concerned Criminal Action Committee, that targeted community activists who were going after pushers in Dublin's drug-scarred neighborhoods. Like Whitey Bulger, who promulgated the myth that he kept drugs out of South Boston while actually reaping millions from the drug trade, Hogan was a fraud.

Police say Hogan shot and wounded one community activist, earning the enmity of the Irish Republican Army, which was promoting itself as the vanguard against pushers.

The IRA is among those suspected of killing Hogan. But, so hated was Hogan that the police acknowledge the suspect list is long. It could have been the IRA; it could have been an IRA splinter group, the Irish National Liberation Army, or it could have been any number of criminals whom Hogan shopped to the police.

He was part of the gang headed by Martin Cahill, Dublin's most colorful gangster, who was known as the General. Cahill was shot dead in 1994, not long after Hogan got out of prison, and more than one gangster suspected Hogan of setting up his one-time mentor. The gangsters who killed Cahill murdered Veronica Guerin, a crusading newspaper reporter, in 1996.

Detectives from the Garda Siochana, Ireland's national police force, didn't especially like Hogan. Many detectives on the famed Tango Squad that targets gangsters despised him.

Once, while being questioned about a series of robberies, Hogan defecated in an interrogation room and smeared excrement on his face so detectives would leave him alone. He was, as one officer put it, "a foul human being."

But Hogan had low-life friends in high-crime places, so police were willing to do business.

Two years ago, Hogan and a group of associates were arrested after police intercepted a shipment of drugs that was to be delivered to Hogan. Soon he was back on the street, but his associates were not. Dublin gangsters aren't stupid. Twice in the summer of 1999, some of Hogan's erstwhile friends tried to kill him, but failed.

The masked men who shot him Saturday were more professional. They had stalked Hogan long enough to know that he was a creature of habit and almost always headed to the Transport Club for a few pints around 9 o'clock on Saturday nights. They were waiting for him when he drove into the parking lot.

Brendan Howlin, the Labor Party spokesman on justice, was appalled by the brazenness of the killing. He said the government had to do more to crack down on criminals and paramilitary groups.

"The fact that Hogan was a notorious and brutal criminal who brought such misery to the community does not make his murder any less reprehensible," said Howlin. "The sort of gun law that has led to the death of Hogan and others is a recipe for anarchy."

But Hogan will be missed by few.

The night after Hogan died in the parking lot of the Transport Club, his wife walked in for a drink.

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