Grandfather to be sentenced for role in Kinahan cartel murder plot
A Dublin grandfather whose son was murdered over a drug feud offered his home as an overnight safe-house to a Kinahan Cartel assassin, the Special Criminal Court has heard.
Stephen Fowler (62) pleaded guilty on Tuesday at the non-jury court to his participation in the attempted murder of Kinahan Cartel target James 'Mago' Gately, a member of the rival Hutch gang, when Gately was living in Belfast in April 2017.
Less than a month later, in May 2017, Gately survived a second assassination attempt on his life when he was parked at the Topaz petrol station in Clonshaugh in north Dublin, where he was shot five times.
On Thursday, September 16, Detective Garda Sergeant David Carolan told Dominic McGinn SC, prosecuting, that a conspiracy to murder Gately was underway as gardaí monitored Estonian hitman Imre Arakas upon his arrival at Dublin Airport in April 2017.
Det Sgt Carolan said that gardaí monitored Arakas taking a bus from the airport to Dublin city centre, where he bought a wig, before he was collected by Fowler and another male and taken to Fowler's home at Blakestown Cottages, Clonsilla, Dublin 15.
Mr McGinn said that at around 8.20pm on April 3, 2016, Fowler picked up Arakas in his van, which was branded 'Blakestown Tyres', at Barry's Hotel in Dublin city centre. He then brought him to Blakestown Cottages because Fowler had "owed" another unnamed male.
The next day, April 4, 2016, gardaí, on foot of a search warrant, went to the Blakestown Cottages address and arrested Fowler and Arakas.
In interviews with gardaí, Fowler said he would not name whom he took instruction from because it would amount to a threat to his life.
Mr McGinn said that a visible open thread on the Blackberry phone device used by Arakas led to gardaí piecing together the plot to murder Gately. Garda investigators took photos of the information on the Blackberry, as that information could be remotely deleted, said Mr McGinn.
Det Sgt Carolan agreed with Mr McGinn that tracking devices were in place and were monitoring Gately, Gately's sister's vehicle and, mistakenly, another unrelated male's car.
Mr McGinn said that a tracking device had later been put in place on Gately's car and that the PSNI had been informed of the matter on April 4, 2017, which led to the thwarting of the assassination.
Det Sgt Carolan agreed with Mr McGinn that the movements of the tracker devices coincided with the information gained from Arakas' Blackberry device and that both the trackers' movements and the tracker monitors coincided with the activities of an organised crime gang.
On Tuesday, Fowler pleaded guilty to the single charge of having knowledge of a criminal organisation and "with the intention of enhancing the ability of the said criminal organisation or any of its members to commit a serious offence, namely the murder of James Gately, participated in or contributed to activities with the said offence".
The offence relates to dates between December 7, 2016, and April 4, 2017, at a location or locations within the State, when Gately was in Northern Ireland.
In 2012, Fowler pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis worth €450k and served six years of an eight-year sentence.
The courts will now review the matter of the 2017 offence, as Fowler was on a two-year suspended sentence at the time from his release of June 7, 2016.
Defending counsel, Michael Bowman SC, said that his client had "engaged fully" with gardaí in interviews and that Fowler had made "substantial admissions".
Mr Bowman said that Fowler knew that Arakas was in the country for "a criminal act" but that Fowler was unaware of the plot to kill Gately.
Mr Bowman said that Fowler admitted that he was part of facilitating a criminal act and that he acknowledged that what he did was "wrong".
Counsel said that Mr Fowler's son, Eric (34), was in Poland at the time of the offence and that Fowler had taken responsibility for a debt associated with his deceased son.
Father-of-two Eric was gunned down in front of his home at Blakestown Cottages on December 22, 2018.
Mr Bowman said that, with regards to Fowler's previous drug conviction, it was Eric who was "the person of interest" and that his client's incarceration cost him a marriage of 36 years.
Mr Bowman said that Fowler was "taking directions" and not "giving them out" at the time of the 2017 conspiracy to end Gately's life.
Counsel said that Fowler was "at the sharp end of a criminal circle" when his client committed the offence and that Fowler had four grandchildren and was "very close" with his daughter.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding at the three-judge court, said the court would finalise sentencing in the matter, which carries a maximum jail term of 15 years, on October 4.
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