How Filthy Fifty fell under an old gypsy's death curse
How murder, suicide and sudden deaths destroyed Dublinâ€™s most feared gang in a matter of years.
WAS IT really a tinker's curse that ended the violent antics of a gang dubbed the 'Filthy Fifty' who terrorised entire communities for over two decades?
The gang was dismantled in a series of murders, suicides and sudden deaths -- events that many attribute to a gypsy curse placed on the heads of the young criminals.
In his new book, Crime Wars, Paul Williams looks at the origin of the gang, their crimes and the superstitious curse, which was first revealed in the pages of the Herald.
Finglas criminals Declan Curran, John Daly and Anthony 'Anto' Spratt were the three central players in the Filthy Fifty who challenged the infamous Westies. Not only did they challenge the Blanchardstown gang, but they matched them in the violence stakes.
The gang were closely aligned to Marlo Hyland and the trio were regularly used on jobs and for drug dealing and extra muscle.
In 2003, a local gypsy woman was allegedly approached by the mother of one of the Filthy Fifty's victims, who asked her to put a hex on the gang.
According to the hex, 12 gang members would be dead within three years because of the 'Cappagh Curse'.
Whether the gypsy spell was believed by the gang, they appeared to have had a disproportionate amount of bad luck in the years that followed.
Just as the curse had promised, 12 members of the gang were dead by 2006 and many had died in strange circumstances. Four members were shot dead. The others were victims of suicide and sudden death -- it was suggested that crime boss Marlo Hyland himself had fallen foul of the 'curse' when he was murdered in 2006.
Daly, Curran and Spratt grew up together in Finglas in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the early years of this decade, the area around Cappagh Cross, Rathoath Road and Cardiffsbridge in Finglas had been dubbed the 'Murder Triangle'.
Gardai attached to that division describe the serious crime wave between 2003 and 2007 as the worst in history.
Blanchardstown, Finglas and Cabra saw 19 murders in those four years.
The violence was so severe that it became the first area in Dublin that was routinely patrolled by the Emergency Response Unit with machine guns and rifles.
The so-called Filthy Fifty had grown from car thieves and petty criminals to become serious players, and their ruthlessness meant they were feared by both rival gangs and the local community.
Described by one source in Crime Wars as "pure evil", the gang had made a name for themselves for all the wrong reasons.
However, Declan Curran's violent lifestyle caught up with him in June 1999 when he was shot. He lost a kidney in the attack and he was forced to use a colostomy bag but the incident didn't hinder his criminal ways.
Together, Daly, Curran and Spratt waged a war of terror on the streets of Finglas. They assaulted gardai, terrorised residents and muscled in on other gang patches.
They also formed dangerous allegiances with other gangs around the county and used their time in jail to bond with other criminals.
The gypsy curse apparently kicked in in earnest -- Declan Curran was arrested for armed robbery on 11 November 2004, the next day he died in his sleep in custody in Cloverhill Prison. It was later reported that he died of a drug-related heart attack.
Later that month, a co-accused in the robbery, which Curran had been arrested for, was shot dead in his bed in Finglas.
On 5 March 2005, Anthony Spratt hanged himself in his prison cell in Mountjoy jail. He was 31 years of age.
Two more suicides in the months that followed added to the gang's death toll, giving credence to the so-called gypsy 'curse.'
John Daly was released from prison on 14 August 2007, three months after his infamous mobile phone call to Livelive's Joe Duffy from inside his cell.
He was warned that there was a hit out on him, but he reportedly laughed it off. On 22 October last year, Daly became the final member of the 'Filthy Fifty' trio to die. He was shot five times as he sat in the front seat of a taxi near his mother's home in Finglas.
The innocent taxi driver still hasn't returned to work following the trauma of that evening.
In his book, Williams details the gang's many violent crimes, the murder and intimidation of their own community, and wonders, like many others, if the curse has now been lifted or even if there are more gang related deaths to follow?