ONE of Dublin's most notorious and dangerous criminals is on the run from prison after failing to return from temporary release, and senior detectives say tracking down the convicted drug dealer is now a major priority.
Jeffrey Finnegan (30), of Rathvilley Drive, Finglas, was granted temporary release from Shelton Abbey open prison for Christmas five months ago but has failed to return. Finnegan has been implicated in two of Dublin's most high-profile unsolved murders in recent years – the fatal shootings of innocent mothers Donna Cleary and Latvian Baiba Saulite.
Cleary was killed when a man opened fire indiscriminately on a group of people attending a 40th birthday party at Adare Green, Coolock, in 2006. The mother-of-one died after being shot in the chest.
Gardaí believe Dwayne Foster (24) was the gunman. Foster later died in custody in a drug-related death after his arrest following the shooting. Finnegan was also arrested over Cleary's murder. He was a close friend of Foster and among the group of men that attacked the house where she died when they were denied entry to the party.
Finnegan was also arrested in relation to the murder of mother-of-two Baiba Saulite in 2006. The Latvian was shot dead on the orders of her estranged husband Hassan Hassan, who has since left Ireland. Finnegan is not suspected of being the gunman in this murder but was a member of the Finglas gang who arranged the shooting as a favour to Limerick's McCarthy-Dundon crime gang on behalf of Hassan Hassan.
Finnegan is linked to murdered gangster 'Marlo' Hyland's Finglas crime gang, whose most recent leader, Eamon Dunne, was murdered three weeks ago.
The 30-year-old survived a murder attempt on his own life in Cabra in December 2006. Despite being shot in the neck and back, Finnegan managed to drive from Annamoe Parade to Finglas on a motorbike where the blood-spattered machine was found outside his home.
In July 2008, Finnegan was jailed for three years after he overturned a stolen car after losing control of it during a high-speed garda chase. With 25% remission for good behaviour, he would have been eligible for release next summer had he not absconded from custody.
He has over 45 previous convictions, the most serious resulting in a six-year sentence in 2000 when he was caught holding cocaine and ecstasy worth an estimated IR£150,000 for another person.
A senior source said that Finnegan was a dangerous and capable criminal.
It is possible that he has left Ireland. Since Dunne's recent murder, extra garda attention has been focused on the Finglas gang Finnegan is associated with but he has not yet been found and returned to prison.