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Road to Hell; Portraits of Evil: How Mary Ryan Lured Ira Fundraiser Manny O'donnell to His Death

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), February 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Road to Hell; Portraits of Evil: How Mary Ryan Lured Ira Fundraiser Manny O'donnell to His Death


AT last, Manny O'Donnell was getting somewhere with the beautiful young woman who had spurned him for years.

O'Donnell and Mary Ryan - at 27 young enough to be his daughter - were driving to a hotel.

And they were driving to his death. O'Donnell, 53, was well known in Glasgow, a big-time builder who wore designer suits, drove flash cars, was dripped in jewellery and never without a good-looking woman draped on his arm.

He wasn't just known in Glasgow. His company did work in the Falklands after the war there and he'd claimed to have been chummy with Prince Andrew, who served there as a helicopter pilot.

He had influence in high places and secured major contracts at the Ministry of Defence and the nuclear submarine plant at Coulport on the Clyde.

But he was also known as an outspoken supporter and financial backer of the IRA, even taking a "tax" of pounds 10 a week off each of his workers for the Provos. If they didn't pay up, they got the sack. O'Donnell, known as The Contractor, also mixed with some of the most prominent Glasgow gangland figures.

A close friend was pub owner John "The Irishman" Friel, well-known on the Glasgow streets.

O'Donnell was also chummy with Arthur "The Godfather" Thompson - and his sworn enemy, Tam "The Licensee" McGraw.

Some people believed he lived a charmed life. But his luck was about to run out.

Mary Ryan was an attractive woman with a sharp brain.

Officially, her job with O'Donnell was helping him to develop pubs and clubs.

The cops suspected she was running his vice game through saunas and flats.

Whatever the truth, she became O'Donnell's almost constant companion, not just in Glasgow but also on trips to Spain.

Ryan always denied the rumours that she was her boss's lover, saying she was faithful to her boyfriend, Patrick Devine.

But despite the lovers he kept in luxury flats, all expenses paid, the one-night stands and the expensive call girls, O'Donnell wanted Ryan.

He loved women and one woman would be his downfall.

On the night of November 19 1998, after many failed attempts to seduce Ryan, it seemed his luck might be in.

The two of them were driving to the Tinto Firs Hotel in Newlands, Glasgow.

That should have been the end of the story. Another notch on The Contractor's bedpost.

But the next day, in a lovers' lane near East Kilbride, a man walking his dog saw a tarpaulin lying on the ground, covering something.

Maybe, it was just curiosity that made him lift the heavy canvas. Maybe, it was because he was fed up with the amount of fly tipping in the area.

Either way, he lifted the tarpaulin and found a hellish sight staring up at him.

The Contractor lay dead. He had been stabbed more than 20 times and shot through the chest and the head.

The investigating cops knew who Manny O'Donnell was and they knew they had a problem. The man had many friends but he had twice as many enemies.

Competitors in the vice trade. Smaller builders he had ruined and chased out of town. Husbands and boyfriends of women he had seduced. Gangsters he kept company with.

But almost from the start, the cops ruled those options out.

They knew O'Donnell had been lured to his death and killed in a brutal but highly orchestrated way.

It had all the hallmarks of a paramilitary operation. Had he fallen out with the IRA or had the loyalists targeted him?

They started to unravel the puzzle by pulling in two men - William McKinnon, who helped run The Contractor's prostitutes, and Francis O'Donnell - no relation - his driver.

Francis O'Donnell insisted he had been in Dublin that night and refused to make any other comment.

McKINNON didn't cope as well with the police interview. Soon he was telling them he knew who the killer was.

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Road to Hell; Portraits of Evil: How Mary Ryan Lured Ira Fundraiser Manny O'donnell to His Death
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