"The vision of Derek Devoy sitting with the machine gun will remain with me forever," Andrew O' Connor said. "I will never forget the image of the hand grenade on the floor."
The machine gun the Garda Sergeant referred to was a 9mm PM 63 RAK submachine gun, a Polish made weapon which can fire 650 rounds per minute and kill within 150 metres.
The hand grenade was a Yugoslavian M75, which has a detonation time of four to six seconds, a kill radius of approximately 19 metres and a serious-injury radius of 30 metres.
On the evening of Monday 11 March last year, three gardaí and Derek Devoy were crammed into a small bathroom within a metre of the hand grenade, well within the kill range. The bomb was primed. The four men, along with the others in the house at the time including children, could have been blown up if the grenade had exploded.
Derek Devoy spent part of that afternoon walking around Ballymun, North Dublin, with the hand grenade and loaded submachine gun in broad daylight. Involved in serious and organised crime all his life, Devoy had been formally warned by Gardaí four times over the years that his life was in danger.
On that Monday however, according to his lawyer, he'd had "some sort of breakdown" because of the latest death threat. He had been told by another criminal where the gun and grenade were stored "in case he ever needed to use" them. Derek decided that day he needed them.
The heavily armed criminal walked along streets, through housing estates and passed by shops that day. He fired shots and was seen by children and adults who raised the alarm. Sometimes he held the gun in front of him, other times down by his side. Once he slid it under his clothes but it went off and blew a hole in his t-shirt. He was lucky he didn't blow his own head off.
Derek Devoy walked into the Doon Court housing estate at around 4.30pm and fired two shots. Andrew O'Connor and his two Garda colleagues Niall Minnock and Conor Garland were on plain clothes patrol that day. They had taken a break when the 999 call came in about an armed man indiscriminately firing shots on the streets of Ballymun.
As the officers were on a break, they had no personal protection equipment with them; no batons, no handcuffs, no pepper spray, no bullet proof vests and no guns. Nonetheless they responded immediately and were first on the scene.
Video footage above shows Devoy wielding the submachine gun on the streets of Ballymun
The Gardai identified themselves when they arrived and Derek Devoy fled. They followed him out of Doon Court and into Crannogue Road where Derek saw an open door and ran into a house. He hadn't been invited and the family living there didn't expect him. He ran down the hallway and into a bathroom in an extension at the back.
Two gardaí ran in after him but when Andrew O' Connor and Conor Garland arrived at the bathroom door they found themselves staring down the barrel of a gun. Devoy was sitting on the toilet pointing the muzzle of the submachine gun at them.
Niall Minnock had gone around the back to cut Devoy off in case he ran out of the house. However, two children who were there told him 'the man was in the house' and "he has a gun".
The garda ran back inside to his two colleagues who were facing Devoy. They told him to drop the gun trained on them, but Devoy only lowered the muzzle and pointed it at the ground. O'Connor and Garland jumped on him and a struggle ensued. The gun went off.
Niall Minnock, who by now had arrived at the bathroom door, was almost shot in the head. The bullet whizzed by his eyes in the hallway of the extension. One step closer and he would have been hit.
At first Minnock thought he had been shot but then realised he had actually been hit in the arm by the shell casing. Five shots were fired from the machine gun during the struggle; five shell casings were found in the bathroom. A line of bullet holes could be seen in the bathroom wall.
O'Connor and Garland managed to wrestle the gun from Devoy. It fell on the bathroom floor and Minnock kicked it away. There were 11 rounds still in it. The gardaí struggled to restrain Devoy as he continued to resist before all four of them ended up in the bathtub.
It was then they spotted the hand grenade on the floor. Packed with prefabricated steel balls in a plastic body, it was primed and ready to explode. The pin had been removed and the fly lever wasn't attached. The fly lever connects to a spring load which is the mechanism that sets off the grenade. Fortunately, for all four men in the bathroom that day, the spring on the grenade was so rusted it didn't explode.
Derek Devoy was arrested and taken to Ballymun Garda Station. He continued to struggle, abuse and fight with gardaí and his clothes had to be cut from him. He was seen by a doctor and taken to hospital where he was treated for a perforated ulcer. He was discharged four days later.
The Army Bomb Disposal Team had to be called in to detonate the hand grenade and make the Crannogue Road area safe. They carried out a controlled explosion which blew up the bathroom and the back of the house. The home was left uninhabitable for months. The family were totally innocent but had the misfortune to have their home chosen by the fleeing Derek Devoy. They had to move out and find somewhere else to live.
"If it had detonated it would have had catastrophic consequences for all the families involved," Andrew O' Connor said afterwards in his victim impact statement. "I felt I had to be strong for my family and colleagues and that's what has gotten me through this. The incident had a significant effect on my life."
Derek 'Bottler’ Devoy
The story of Derek Devoy is the story of dysfunction, disadvantage, poverty and tragedy. It is also one of extreme violence, organised and disorganised crime - and the money to be made from it.
Devoy is one of four children who grew up in Ballymun, North Dublin, who with little education and no employment prospects graduated to a life of crime. His father died when he was eight. Derek is the youngest and last surviving child.
There are conflicting stories as to how Derek got the nickname 'Bottler' Devoy. Some say it was because he was 'a bottler', a person who 'bottles it', a coward. Others say it is because when he spoke he sounded like the late comedian Brendan Grace's character 'Bottler'.
Whatever about Derek's nickname, it wasn't difficult to figure out how his elder brother Michael got his nickname. He was known as 'Mad Mickey'. The Devoy family have been well known in Ballymun for the past 50 years but they only really came to national prominence in 2001.
'The Berlin Wall of Hostility'
On 11 September that year Derek, Michael and other family members got into a row with a neighbour over where the bins should be left for collection. The neighbours found the Devoys' bins outside their house and moved them back. They were put back again outside the neighbours' house.
A shouting match ensued, which escalated when a third family got involved. The following month violence erupted and spilled on to the streets which led to the arrest and charge of seven people with public order offences.
Judge Joseph Mathews later called it 'The Berlin Wall of Hostility' and handed down suspended sentences to those convicted at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. It did not however stop the violence. The row over the bins continued and in May 2002 Michael Devoy told two members of the other families he would "blow your heads off".
The following month shots were fired into one of the families' homes after the front door window pane was smashed in with the barrel of a shotgun. No one was injured but the walls and furniture in the house were badly damaged.
Family members who were in the house at the time recognised Michael Devoy in the garden. They knew him even though he was wearing a blonde wig and getting into a car to flee the scene. He was later jailed for four years for threatening to kill two members of the family.
Like Derek, Michael was a violent, dangerous and unstable criminal. He had spent most of his life in jail. The longest period of time he managed to keep himself out of prison in the 20 years from 1986 to 2006 was 13 months. He was in many ways incapable of living in society 'on the outside' without harming himself or others.
Michael also had serious health problems. He was HIV and Hepatitis C positive. However, the rows with the neighbours didn't end when Michael was sent to jail. Derek continued the bin violence.
In September 2005 Derek Devoy fired five shots at two members of the third family involved in the dispute during a drive-by shooting. He was in a car with two other masked gunmen. He leaned out the window and pointed the gun at them. However, as he was shooting, the scarf covering his face slipped. The sister of two of the men he shot at immediately recognised him because, as she said herself, she knew him "all my life".
Derek was charged but released on bail. The following year he was caught with a gun in Balbriggan. The gang he was with was under surveillance and intercepted by gardaí on the afternoon of 6 April 2006. Derek got out of a van and ran, throwing off his vest and gloves en route but he and fellow gunman David Mulvey from Finglas were caught.
A loaded sawn-off shotgun with two spare cartridges was found between the two seats in the van. "You have me bang to rights," Mulvey said to the Gardaí. Derek said nothing.
Mulvey and Devoy were both sentenced to seven years in prison for the firearms offences, but Mulvey had committed the crime while on bail for an attempted post office robbery four months earlier. He was given three years for that offence consecutive to the seven years for the gun and ammunition, bringing his total to ten years in prison.
Derek was also on bail for the gun attack but hadn't been convicted of it so he didn't get a consecutive sentence. He was sentenced for the second offence first. So while Mulvey got ten years, Derek Devoy got seven years, with two suspended.
By the time Devoy was sentenced in 2007 for the Ballymun shooting in 2005, he was already in prison for the Balbriggan firearms offence. His luck ran out however in 2009. The state appealed and the Court of Criminal Appeal handed Derek a ten year sentence for the bin shooting four years earlier.
Volatile and violent, unstable and unpredictable, Derek Devoy was not a model prisoner. He had multiple serious disciplinary issues in jail and at one stage had to be transferred to the segregation unit in the maximum security Portlaoise Prison.
Both of Derek's brothers served time in prison and both died while he was in prison. The eldest, Johnny Devoy, died of a heart attack in Featherstone Prison in England in May 2013. He was 42. Eight months later, Michael was shot dead.
The murder of Michael 'Mad Mickey' Devoy
Michael Devoy, like his brother Derek, was also a notorious gangland criminal. He had over 70 criminal convictions. He was the main suspect for the murder of Mark Byrne in 2005 who was shot dead on the North Circular Road in Dublin minutes after he was released from Mountjoy jail. He was also a suspect for the drive-by shooting of convicted drug dealer Greg Lynch outside Hanlon's pub further along the North Circular Road in 2013.
Michael had survived two attempts on his life, including one where a pipe bomb for him was mistakenly planted under a neighbour's car. His activities had however made him a target for the more professional gunmen linked to the Kinahan Organised Crime Group who had already murdered a number of Dublin criminals including the Finglas gang boss Eamonn Dunne.
Michael Devoy was released from prison on Friday the 17January 2014. The next day he went to a meeting with fellow gangsters. He knew his life was in danger but he thought he could trust these men and took precautions.
However, not even the bullet proof vest he wore that day could save him. His killers shot him in the head and neck in a gangland murder which to this day remains unsolved. His body was found dumped in a lane in Tallaght.
"The guilt he felt at the loss of his sister, in a shooting where he was the intended target, was "the straw that broke the camel's back""
Michael was the same age as his older brother Johnny when he died. The only surviving brother Derek was still in jail in 2014. However, he was deemed to be such a security risk he was refused temporary release from prison, even for a few hours, to bury his brother.
Derek was released just over a year later and warned that his life was also in danger from, among others, the people who killed his brother. He was 32 years of age, with 27 previous convictions, including two for firearms offences. He had just finished a ten year sentence.
Derek fled to England hoping to live off the money he had earned from organised crime. His family were supposed to transfer more than €100,000 to him. It didn't work out however because 'the family business' was targeted and his criminal assets frozen. With no money and no means of making any, Derek came back to Ireland.
The Devoy organised crime group
'The Devoy organised crime group', as it was referred to in court documents, made huge sums of money from organised crime. The gang was involved in drug trafficking - principally, the sale of heroin in Ballymun, as well as violent burglaries, armed robberies and gun crime.
Derek quit work at an age when most people start - he was 18 years old in 2001. He had a job in a factory from the age of 15 but only earned just over €19,000 in that three year period. He would never be legally employed again and yet had so much money he was able to buy his own council house from the local authority. He turned it into a fortress complete with bullet proof windows, steel doors and CCTV cameras.
A local uniformed garda first started examining the Devoy gang’s finances. Although he was stationed in Raheny, Sergeant Pat Beere was the divisional profiler for the North Dublin area which included Ballymun. He had previously worked in the Criminal Assets Bureau. He had a list of criminals to look at and one of them was Derek Devoy.
Beere succeeded in freezing over €100,000 of Derek's money under the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act. The law required him to renew the order in court every 28 days, which he did for 26 months.
He also identified 16 bank accounts linked to the gang "with significant movements of monies through them". More than €43,000 in "unexplained lodgements" was discovered in Derek's account between 1998 and 2014.
The following year in March 2015 another €100,000 was lodged to Derek’s account and, while he accepted he opened and operated this and other accounts, he couldn't say where them money came from. He told the Gardaí he "couldn't recall the source". Derek was claiming job seeker's allowance at the time and had been since 2003. He also acquired two cars while he had been in prison.
A file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in an attempt to prosecute Devoy for money laundering. When the Director decided not to proceed, investigators took the other route and the Criminal Assets Bureau moved against him before he could try to get the money back.
Devoy subsequently failed to challenge the CAB's assertions about the gang’s drug dealing and application to the High Court. The money was ultimately declared the proceeds of crime and seized by the state.
Derek's sister Antoinette was also involved in the gang's money laundering operation, moving money between the accounts. She refused to answer questions about the finances, the sale of a house in 2012 which had been fitted with new floors, a new heating system, a kitchen and a bathroom.
Gardaí asked Derek about a large sum of money which went from Antoinette's account to his. "I didn’t know much about it, transferred without my knowledge," he told them. "Her savings, didn’t touch it, didn’t want it."
When gardaí interviewed Antoinette about the money in August 2016, the mother of six replied "no comment". She also refused to talk about the plan to buy another house in Co Cavan. The following year she was shot dead.
Antoinette Corbally-Devoy was not murdered over anything she'd done herself but because of her brother's involvement in organised crime. Derek was by now caught up in a localised feud in Ballymun. There had been several shootings and pipe bomb attacks, which had resulted in at least three teenagers and a man being shot.
Derek was the target of the two gunmen who arrived at Antoinette's home on Balbutcher Drive in Ballymun at around 4pm on 16 August 2017. He had just arrived at the house having been driven there by friend Clinton Shannon. The 30-year-old Locksmith from Applewood in Swords, who had no criminal record, was shot in the neck and chest as he sat in the car outside.
Derek, who was out front, dropped a toddler he was holding and ran. The two masked gunmen followed him to the house but he escaped. They shot dead his sister in the hallway. She was hit in the neck and chest. Her 18-year-old pregnant daughter and a 52-year-old man were also injured in the attack.
The Garda investigation is still ongoing. The officer in charge, Inspector Mick Mulligan, told the Coroner's Court that "criminal proceedings are being contemplated".
One of the main suspects was murdered six months later. Jason ‘Buda’ Molyneux, a Hutch organised crime group drug dealer and gunman, became the 18th victim of the ongoing Hutch-Kinahan feud when he was shot six times in a north inner city flat complex on 31 January 2018.
Derek survived and vowed to avenge his sister's death. Antoinette had, in the words of Senior Counsel Sean Gillane who represented Derek in the Special Criminal Court, "died in unspeakable circumstances".
The guilt he felt at the loss of his sister, in a shooting where he was the intended target, was his lawyer said "the straw that broke the camel's back". It was Antoinette's murder, along with the feud murder the year before at the Regency Hotel, which Mr Gillane said "freaked him out".
The Garda investigation didn’t identify any particular threat to Derek Devoy’s life that day last year in Ballymun that caused him, in the words of Mr Justice Tony Hunt, to "run amok" with a loaded submachine gun "in a densely populated area in the afternoon".
The Special Criminal Court sentenced him to 17 years in prison but suspended the final two if he swore to be of good behaviour for a further ten years. The judge also recommended that the bravery of the three gardaí be formally recognised.
Afterwards the detective superintendent who led the investigation, Paul Scott, said the three officers had recovered. "They are all working and while they are well used to dealing with difficult situations," he said. "This is something they will never forget."
The case he said also illustrated the proliferation of lethal firearms on the streets which were invariably linked to the drugs trade.
"It shows the recklessness used by Mr Devoy. The community of Ballymun is a little safer today."
Organised crime invariably ends in a jail or a grave. There is some evidence that after more than 20 years of serious and violent crime, Derek Devoy has come to realise that fact.
The 37-year-old has apologised for what he did and has vowed to be a good citizen in future. He has written a letter to the court expressing his intention to reform and to use his time in prison to acquire further skills.
It remains to be seen if Devoy will keep the promise to permanently move away from organised crime. There is also the question as to whether those who have threatened and tried to kill him so many times in the past will in the future allow him to walk away and live in peace.