THE shooting dead of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe has sparked one the biggest murder hunts of recent years.
Armed patrols were deployed throughout the region on Friday night, while details of criminal gangs from north Dublin, Meath and Louth were circulated in each division as detectives attempted to narrow down the list of suspects.
Among some sources at least, suspicions last night were leaning towards a criminal gang operating in the border region rather than robbers from Dublin.
Some sources speculated the weapon used was a shotgun, which suggests a criminal gang with limited access to weapons.
One garda source said last night: "They are saying that the weapon of choice for this gang was a shotgun and if it was dissidents behind this raid, they would be better armed than that."
However, for some this image of a shambolic gang is inconsistent with the speed of the attack.
"They shouted something about money. Then they just shot him – whether they shot him because they knew him or not?" said a source.
"They would have to be people with serious grievances with the gardai. I don't think it will be gangs from Dublin. There could be paramilitary links."
Details of the attack are sparse but chilling nonetheless.
According to informed sources, the experienced detective whose face was familiar to the criminals who operate in the border counties was on cash-in-transit duty on Friday night.
It seems that he and his colleague, Joe Ryan, arrived at the Lordship Credit Union in Belurgan, Jenkinstown, at around 9.30pm for a routine cash transaction.
According to sources, they pulled into the car park in their unmarked car. One of the other cars parked there was a Volkswagen Passat, with up to four gang members sitting inside.
On spotting the unmarked car, some of the gang members clambered out of their car, informed sources say.
Detective Donohoe, who was in the front passenger seat, also got out from his car.
His colleague, Detective Joe Ryan, stayed at the wheel.
According to sources, Detective Donohoe was shot seconds later, while he was still standing on the passenger side of his vehicle.
According to one source they had started shouting "something about money" before they opened fire.
It is believed that Detective Donohoe was fatally shot in the head after one gang member fired the weapon over the roof of the unmarked garda vehicle
Garda colleagues of the dead officer cannot understand why the gang opened fire during a type of armed robbery that is now commonplace across the country.
"They could have just driven away when the boys drove up," said one. "Why didn't they?"