Declan Gavin was born on 19 September 1980 and lived on Mourne Road in Drimnagh, not far from Brian Rattigan. He was less than a month from his 21st birthday when he was murdered. He was single, unemployed and lived at home with his mother, brother and sister. He never worked a day in his life nor paid any PRSI or PAYE.
Gavin was a serious criminal and was well known to gardaí at Sundrive Road station. He was heavily involved in the largescale distribution of drugs around south Dublin and had previous convictions for public order and road traffic offences. He was known to have access to firearms and had another conviction for the illegal possession of two sawn-off shotguns.
On 10 March 2000 he was arrested, along with two others, at the Holiday Inn on Pearse Street in possession of two kilos of cocaine and 50,000 ecstasy tablets. The haul was worth €700,000 and he was charged and due to stand trial in October 2001. He was murdered before appearing in court. The two people he was with were jailed for six and seven years for their roles. It was this drugs seizure that indirectly led to Gavin's death because he was accused of being a garda informer.
The hotel seizure was by no means Gavin's first brush with the law over drugs.
On 11 August 1999, he was arrested with two other men in possession of 200,000 ecstasy tablets at Ballymount Cross in Dublin 12. He was not charged although his two associates were and received sentences of three and eight years. The fact that he wasn't charged first led to suspicions that he was a garda tout. There was already bad blood between Gavin and Brian Rattigan's gang and the initial dispute can be traced back to 1998 when a motorbike belonging to Gavin was stolen by a man called Derek Lodge. Gavin retaliated by attempting to petrol bomb Lodge's house which led to Gavin's mother's car being burnt with acid.
Gavin was friendly with Freddie Thompson and they joined forces while Rattigan sided with Lodge and the two factions were born.
Derek Lodge was himself murdered the year after Gavin, the second victim of the feud. Before his murder, Gavin was active in the feud and on 13 March 1999, he fired three shots at the home of rival criminal Noel Roche. Nobody was injured.
Neighbours heard Roche shout, "If anyone is interested, it was Decco Gavin," minutes after the incident. There have been dozens of similar incidents since Gavin's murder and almost without exception they have not been reported to gardaí.
Failure to cooperate with gardaí and witness intimidation have been the hallmarks of the Gavin murder investigation.
Detectives tried to interview everybody present at Joey Rattigan's 18th birthday in an attempt to verify Brian Rattigan's movements, but most people were uncooperative, with many telling blatant lies to protect Rattigan.
Thirteen people at the party were arrested at various stages for withholding information. A further six witnesses to the murder had to be arrested in order to take statements. Before the trial took place, gardaí were forced to make a further 13 arrests in order to serve witness summonses. Many people who gave evidence in 2001 could not be traced before the trial began and one man was held in contept of court for refusing to give evidence during the murder trial. Most of those detained said they were too scared to cooperate. A soldier who was quizzed knew both Gavin and Rattigan, but would not cooperate because he was "afraid for my family's lives, that they would be in danger".
The soldier was later arrested again and claimed he had been abducted and warned not to name Declan Gavin's murderer. He then admitted that this was a lie and refused to sign his statement because he "was not a rat".
Another witness, who is now 28, would only tell the gardaí that the murderer's initials were BR. That was the extent of his cooperation because, he told detectives, "there's nothing lower than a rat. The fella that did this already killed someone, what's to stop him killing me?"
One of Rattigan's friends waiting in the Nissan car saw another witness and asked her "What are you looking at, slapper?" After the murder, other people heard her shouting, "It's the Rattigans," but she refused to cooperate despite her arrest.
Another man who saw what happened that night knew both the victim and perpetrator and told detectives off the record about the sequence of events, but would not go on the record because he was afraid and didn't want to be classed as a "rat".
A second soldier was also detained for refusing to cooperate and said he would not go to court and did not care about his army oath "to protect the state and all that". He maintained that he was too afraid and gardaí believe he was threatened and warned not to name names.