WHO knows what Detective Garda Sean Lynch must have thought when he saw the late Philip Collopy arrive at the crime scene within hours of Shane Geoghegan’s murder.
Collopy was a notorious criminal from St Mary’s Park and was a prime suspect for the murder of Eddie Ryan in the Moose Bar in November 2000, a crime that sparked Limerick’s bloody gang feud.
A serious criminal with no history of co-operating with the gardai, Collopy handed over a mobile phone which he believed may be of interest to detectives investigating the murder of Shane Geoghegan.
Collopy had received a text informing him that his associate John “Pitchfork” McNamara had been shot dead by the rival Dundon gang. This had come as a surprise to Collopy as he had been drinking with McNamara in the Mucky Duck pub on Nicholas Street at the time Shane Geoghegan was gunned down by Barry Doyle.
So when John Dundon used Doyle’s phone to goad his rival over the death of “Pitchfork”, Collopy was able to tell his rival that they had instead shot “a pizzaman”, gangster slang for an innocent civilian.
According to witness April Collins, who was present, this phone call was made from the car park of Finnegan’s pub on the Dublin Road at around 7.30am on November 9, 2008.
When told the “wrong man” was dead, Dundon had panicked, berated Doyle and made plans with his brother Gerard to disappear for a while.
Records obtained by gardai from Meteor revealed the calling number, the called number, the time and duration of the call.
It was tracked to within the general area of ESB stations in Annacotty and Plassey, corroborating April Collins version of events. The call lasted 1,498 seconds, or around 25 minutes.
Gardai were able to establish that it had been made from Barry Doyle’s phone to a pre-paid mobile phone bought on Collopy’s behalf and registered to an Annette Curtin from Corbally, a purely fictitious identity. Gardai were at the murder scene in Dooradoyle when Philip Collopy - who had advance notice that an attempt would be made on McNamara’s life - arrived.
He handed the phone over to Det Garda Lynch and, more surprisingly still, agreed to make a statement to gardai that could link John Dundon to the murder of Shane Geoghegan. This Collopy subsequently did.
The motivation behind Collopy’s uncharacteristic co-operation with gardai can be guessed at. His Keane-Collopy organisation was not only competing with the Dundons for the drug market but had been involved in a bloody feud with the rival gang for almost seven years.
But gardai had hoped that Philip Collopy would take the witness box to give evidence against John Dundon.
That hope was thwarted when Philip Collopy died of a self-inflicted wound in March 2009, apparently when playing around with his Glock pistol.
Undeterred, gardai found other witnesses to come forward who were critical to the conviction this week of John Dundon.