Chief suspect for double murder has fled country
THE prime suspect for the gangland murders of two men whose bodies were found on an island in a rural lake is a foreign national who has since fled the country with his partner.
Gardai believe that Eoin O'Connor (32) and Anthony Keegan (33) were shot dead in a house in Co Cavan and their bodies then brought by boat to Inchicup Island between April 22 and 23.
A man who had been fishing on Lough Sheelin, on the Cavan-Meath border, at the weekend contacted gardai after noticing what was described as a "terrible smell" coming from the island.
The badly decomposed bodies of the two men were found under a tarpaulin in heavy undergrowth on Monday afternoon. It is understood that they had been tied together.
It is believed that the two Dubliners, who had been regular visitors to a number of drug dealers in the south Cavan area, went to collect a drug debt owed to a major drug gang.
One theory being pursued by detectives is that the men may have been shot in a "spur of the moment" reaction when they visited the foreign national, who is described as a violent drug dealer. The criminal is well known to gardai and has been suspected of involvement in the manufacture of pipe bombs.
Gardai now want to question four people about the murders, including two women – the girlfriend of the chief suspect in the case and the daughter of another man who may have been involved in the murders.
Yesterday gardai appealed for anyone to come forward who may have seen the men's grey Ford Focus, 04 D 46380, close to Lough Sheelin, near the townland of Ross, Mountnugent, between April 20 and 25 or anywhere close to the Cavan/ Meath border.
The Ford Focus the men travelled in is understood to have remained parked at the man's rented accommodation for a number of days before it was moved. On April 25, gardai recovered the vehicle in a car park overlooking Lough Owel outside Mullingar.
It is understood that forensic experts found no evidence in the car to suggest that a violent attack had taken place.
A mobile phone found in the car provided a number of important clues.
Gardai want to talk to anyone who may have been fishing or sailing on the lake on April 22 or 23 or who may have been walking on the shoreline on those dates.
Three weeks ago gardai seized a boat equipped with an outboard motor during a search of a number of properties in the area, including the suspect's rented accommodation.
Sources say that the boat was being rented by the prime suspect, who is closely associated with another drug gang operating in the midlands.
The foreign national left Ireland for the UK in the company of his girlfriend after the murdered men's families reported them missing on April 23.
It is understood that a number of the man's associates have also fled the country in fear of a revenge attack by the gang boss who sent the men to collect the debt.
A post mortem was carried out yesterday on the remains of O'Connor and Keegan, who are believed to have been shot dead.
Two houses in Co Meath were also being searched by gardai, including the one rented by the chief suspect where the murder is thought to have taken place.
It is understood that gardai have now established a list of suspects as a result of information gleaned from the men's associates, other intelligence sources and analysis of phone traffic.
A senior source last night confirmed that gardai would be carrying out a number of arrests.
According to his family, O'Connor appeared concerned for his safety before he set off for Co Cavan on Tuesday, April 22.
He instructed a relative to give gardai the name of a suspected drug dealer who he planned to visit in Ballyjamesduff if he failed to return.
However, gardai have since interviewed the man, who confirmed that he received a visit from the two men on the previous day.
Security sources say they are now satisfied that this man was not involved in the pair's disappearance.
The investigation, which had been co-ordinated from Ballymun garda station under the command of Supt Paul Moran and Det Supt Jim McGowan, will now be passed to colleagues based at Kells station, where an incident room was set up yesterday.
The public has been asked to contact gardai in Kells on 046 9280828, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any garda station.