Taken from todays's Independent...
CIARAN BYRNE, JODY CORCORAN and NICK PATON-WALSH in MOSCOW
LIAM LAWLOR, the controversial former Fianna Fail politician, was killed yesterday in a high-speed crash in Moscow in the company of a teenage girl described by police as "likely to be a prostitute", the Sunday Independent can reveal.
The 61-year-old was travelling from a red-light district towards Moscow with a Ukrainian girl when his hired Mercedes spun out of control at 1am Moscow time.
A spokesman for the Moscow police department told the Sunday Independent that no other vehicle was involved and that it appeared excessive speed was the main factor in the crash.
The vehicle, driven by a chauffeur, struck a concrete bollard on the Leningradskoye highway in the suburb of Khimki, which Moscow police said was a well-known pick-up point for prostitutes.
Mr Lawlor, always a colourful character and regularly described as a "likeable rogue", was in the passenger seat when the collision occurred.
He and his chauffeur, named as a Mr Sulemann, were killed instantly, while the girl, who was in the back seat of the car, escaped with minor injuries.
Moscow police yesterday said: "The woman had no passport and said she was not a close friend of the Irish man. She is a girl and it seems they met on the street and it is therefore likely she was a prostitute."
That the former TD, from Lucan, Dublin, died in the company of a woman likely to be a prostitute will only serve to add to the sense of danger and controversy which always accompanied his entwined political and business careers.
News of his death caused deep shock in political and business circles throughout Ireland when it emerged at around noon yesterday.At Fianna Fail's Ard Fheis in Killarney, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern said he was "shocked" to learn of the untimely death and extended his heartfelt sympathy to Mr Lawlor's wife Hazel, his children, family and friends.
The Taoiseach said: "Liam was an engaging, witty and a larger-than-life character. He
was also a man with a keen intellect and strong views that he was never afraid to articulate trenchantly. Outside the rough and tumble of political activity, he was extremely popular with his parliamentary colleagues across thepolitical boards."
There was no immediate comment from Mr Lawlor's old adversary, Feargus Flood.
But the Mahon tribunal, of which Mr Justice Flood is a former chairman, is now deprived of one of its most crucial witnesses. Indeed, his death may hasten the end of the tribunal, something which Mr Lawlor's friends were last night wistfully speculating would have amused the former politician.
In 1999 and 2001, Mr Lawlor served two separate one-week terms of three-month sentences for contempt of court arising out of his dealings with the tribunal. In 2002, he served a month for failure to comply with a tribunal and respond to its requests to disclose documents and information.
Khimki, from where Mr Lawlor was travelling, is a well-known haunt of prostitutes. Mr Lawlor died on the Leningradskoye highway, which has recently seen mass demonstrations by local residents, students and pensioners to banish the prostitutes who traditionally gather along it at night.
A police spokesman in Moscow told the Sunday Independent last night: "There was no luggage in the car so it is not the case that the car was coming from the airport. It was coming form the area of Khimki which is known as an area where businessmen pick up women."
Russia has become a mecca for Irish business figures who have flocked to the former Soviet state to develop multi-million euro property and business ventures.
Mr Lawlor himself was engaged in various business activities in Prague, in the Czech Republic, and was involved in plans to develop a shopping complex in the city.
Doing business in Russia can be difficult for outsiders who rely on a network of contacts to make introductions and it is likely that Lawlor had already made contacts there.
The death of Mr Lawlor, who celebrated his 61st birthday last Wednesday, stunned the world of Irish politics last night and brings to a tragic end the life a man scarred by scandal and disgrace.
The former TD's three sons, Niall, Shane and Gerald, were on their way home from the United States last night to join Liam Lawlor's wife Hazel and daughter Ciara at the family home in Lucan, west Dublin.
In a statement last night, the Lawlor family said they were "overwhelmed" by the kind sympathy they have received from home and abroad.
Friends and neighbours in Lucan expressed disbelief that the former TD had died in Russia in such bizarre circumstances.
Police in Moscow believe Lawlor's car had travelled to the Moscow suburb of Khimki and was returning to the centre of the Russian capital when the crash happened.
Mr Lawlor was sitting in the passenger seat of the car while the girl sat alone in the back. "The driver lost control of the car and struck a concrete baton on the right hand side of the road. As a result the driver was killed as was Lawlor, Liam, born 1944."
Yesterday, Frank Dunlop, the former lobbyist who delivered damning testimony against his erstwhile friend, Mr Lawlor, at the Flood tribunal, was shocked to learn of the TD's death yesterday afternoon.
He told the Sunday Independent: "I am just totally shocked, absolutely shocked by the news. That life should end so tragically, so far away. I can't imagine what Hazel and the family are going through. I am absolutely tremendously shocked. I don't want to say any more."
The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern added: "I have known Liam Lawlor since we were both first elected to Dail Eireann in the General Election of 1977.
"In his youth, Liam was well known as a hurler of some renown and he represented Dublin and Leinster with distinction. He followed the route travelled by a number of many prominent GAA stars and swapped the playing pitches for political life.
"Liam was elected as a TD for the constituency of Dublin West and during a 25-year career in politics, he was an assiduous worker on behalf of his constituents. In volatile political times in the Eighties, Liam lost his seat on two occasions but each time regained it in the following election. Liam announced his retirement from politics prior to the General Election in 2002.
"At this difficult time, my thoughts are with Hazel and all Liam's family especially his daughter, Ciara, who worked with me during my time as leader of the Opposition."
The Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, expressed his "deepest sympathy" to the family of the former TD.
"On behalf of the Fine Gael Party, I extend my deepest sympathy to Liam Lawlor's wife Hazel and their children," Mr Kenny said.
The Tanaiste, Mary Harney said it was with "great regret" that she had learned today of the sudden death.
"To lose his life in an accident so far from home, represents a terrible tragedy for his family and friends," Ms Harney said. She also expressed her sincere sympathy to Mr Lawlor's widow Hazel and to their four children.