The son of a murdered dissident republican chief was gunned down outside his west Belfast home on Saturday for providing the getaway car used in the killing of Dublin hitman Robbie Lawlor.
Warren Crossan – who was on court bail facing cocaine dealing and motoring charges – was shot dead outside his mother’s home in the St James’ area of the city in the afternoon.
His assassins were acting on the orders of gangland figures in the south with connections to slain contract killer Robbie Lawlor.
They were told that he provided the getaway car used by the killers of the notorious 36-year-old mob boss, who was murdered while collecting a drugs debt in the Ardoyne area of Belfast in April.
Warren’s father Tommy Crossan, a Continuity IRA leader, was executed by rival dissident republicans at a west Belfast fuel depot in April 2014 following a fall-out over cash.
Unwilling to learn from his dad’s mistakes he immersed himself in crime, running cocaine and stolen car rings from a base in the village of Crumlin, Co Antrim.
It was there just hours after the Lawlor murder in April that he was arrested, with heavily armed police also raiding the property in St James’ where he was shot dead outside on Saturday.
Crossan was freed without charge, but his card was marked. Within days graffiti identifying him as a target was spray-painted around Belfast.
The 28-year-old ignored the threats and in an act of bravado told pals he was not worried. On Saturday afternoon Lawlor’s gangland pals caught up with Crossan, shooting him at least five times.
Witnesses to the killing told of how the victim, a father of two, begged for his life. “Warren was screaming ‘no, no, don’t shoot’, but your man just emptied the gun into him,” said one local.
Republican sources rubbished claims that Warren Crossan had any links to paramilitaries, describing him as “an out and out drug dealer”.
“His da was in the Contos but Warren had no connection to any republican groups – he was living in Crumlin because he was under threat from them for drug dealing. He had a second-hand car sales business which was a front for laundering drugs money.”
Crossan had family ties to dissident republicans in Limerick, who are believed to have been involved in the murder of Dublin hitman Robbie Lawlor.
The day after his killing in north Belfast two women were arrested by gardai en-route to the city with what was described as a £50,000 bounty. The cash was seized by Irish police.
Both republican and criminal sources believe Warren Crossan provided the getaway car used by the killers of Lawlor. He was shot dead in the garden of a home on Etna Drive after arriving at the terraced house to collect a drugs debt.
Gunmen, who were laying in wait, emerged from a back room blasting him multiple times as he stood at the front door.
They escaped through the rear of the property into a vehicle understood to have been provided by Crossan. It was burnt out a short distance away on Kingston Court.
Lawlor was the prime suspect in the mutilation murder of Drogheda teenager Keane Mulready-Woods, whose dismembered body parts were found in various locations near Dublin earlier this year.
He was employed by drugs gangs in the Irish capital as ‘muscle’ to threaten those in debt. This was the reason why the thug found himself demanding payment while banging on the door of a house in Ardoyne – a fiercely republican district more associated with 30 years of Troubles conflict than modern day crime cartels.
Within hours of his killing cops arrested Crossan, searching his home in Crumlin and another he had connections to in the St James area.
Sunday Life understands a second man, an associate of the murder victim who was also arrested in connection with the Lawlor murder, fled Belfast after Warren Crossan's murder.
He had been living in Ardoyne but quit the area after being told that Crossan’s killers were hunting him.
“There was a time when drug dealers would never have carried out murders in staunch republican districts like St James’ and Ardoyne, but those days are over,” said an Ardoyne republican.
Politicians last night united to condemn the murder of Warren Crossan, with Sinn Fein’s Paul Maskey describing it as “brutal and shameful”.
The West Belfast MP said: “My thoughts are with the family of the man was has been killed. No family should have to go through this heartache.
“Those involved in this act have absolutely no place in our community, they must cease their anti-community activities and get off the back of the people of west Belfast. Those responsible must be held accountable before the courts.”
Murder victim Warren Crossan was last in court in December on cocaine dealing charges. A prosecution lawyer described him as a “kingpin” in an attempt to get £180,000 worth of the drug smuggled across the border.
The cocaine was found inside fake panels of a van which was stopped by police on the A1 near Sprucefield. Crossan, with an address on Glenfield Close in Crumlin, was also before Belfast Magistrates Court on separate motoring offences.
Appealing for witnesses to come forward, Detective Chief Inspector Darren McCartney said: “I have launched a murder investigation following the fatal shooting of a man in his late 20s this afternoon.
"I believe the man was chased from the junction of Rodney Parade and St James’s Road along Rodney Parade by two masked gunmen before he was shot a number of times at close range in St Katharines Road. This was a brutal murder and the brazen recklessness of the killers completely beggars belief."
Police are asking people to upload any mobile phone videos, CCTV footage, vehicle dash cam footage or any photos, as well as any information they may have via the following link: https://mipp.police.uk/operation/PSNI20P10-PO1