Gangster wanted over murder of Veronica Guerin finally arrested

A prominent Irish gangster and murder suspect who has lived on the continent for many years has been arrested near Amsterdam and faces extradition to the UK.

John Traynor was a key figure in the Dublin criminal underworld before fleeing the Republic of Ireland after Veronica Guerin, the crusading crime journalist, was murdered in 1996.

She was shot dead while driving her car near Dublin. Irish police believe Traynor tipped off the gunman who drove up beside her on a motorcycle and killed her.

The killing caused uproar in the Republic, and laws were introduced allowing the proceeds of crime to be confiscated. A monument was erected to Ms Guerin, who is remembered as a fearless pursuer of crime figures.

At the time of the reporter's death Traynor, 62, was seeking a court order to prevent her from writing about his activities. During his career Traynor associated with well-known criminals such as Martin Cahill, known as "the General," who was shot dead by the IRA. Traynor was chillingly portrayed by the actor Ciaran Hinds in the movie Veronica Guerin in which Cate Blanchett starred as the journalist.

Traynor also worked with John Gilligan, another feared underworld figure who was acquitted of the Guerin murder but given a lengthy sentence for drug trafficking. Another man, Brian Meehan, is serving life imprisonment for the journalist's murder.

Gilligan has made many court appearances in recent years in attempts to stop the authorities seizing millions of euros of assets which he is believed to have amassed by illegal methods including drugs sales.

Two years ago Gilligan caused a stir by blaming associates for shooting Ms Guerin. He announced in court: "John Traynor had Veronica Guerin murdered, 100 per cent. He set me up and he stole Brian Meehan's telephone."

The Dublin authorities have made no obvious attempts to extradite Traynor back to Ireland from the continent, where he is said to have lived in Holland, Spain and Portugal. The general assumption is that prosecuting him would be unlikely to result in a conviction.

Traynor is said to have youthful convictions for offences such as burglary and housebreaking. When he was older he was caught with a gun. He moved on to more serious crimes in the lucrative drug trade, where he was known as a fixer.

Moving to England after the Guerin shooting, he was given a seven-year sentence for handling stolen bearer bonds reportedly worth millions. He vanished in November 1992 when he failed to return to HMP Prison Highpoint in Suffolk after a short period of home leave.

Traynor has therefore been on the run for 18 years. He was detained in the Amstelveen area of Amsterdam after a joint operation by the Dutch police and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

In a statement the agency said: "He is now awaiting extradition to the UK to serve the remainder of his sentence. This arrest is as a result of ongoing collaboration with the Dutch authorities that Soca has to apprehend criminals operating in the Netherlands that impact on the UK."

Parts of Ireland, particularly Dublin and Limerick, continue to be plagued by a violent underworld rooted in the drugs trade. Rival gangs and individuals are involved in lethal feuding which has resulted in more than a dozen deaths in recent years.