GARDAI hunting the killers of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe are now satisfied the criminals were carrying two firearms.
Intensive inquiries have established that the five-man gang carried another weapon along with the shotgun which they used to murder the detective outside the Lordship credit union at Bellurgan, Jenkinstown, Co Louth, on the evening of January 25 last year.
He was hit with a shotgun blast to the head as he stepped out of his patrol car to investigate why another vehicle was blocking the exit from the credit union car park.
Investigating officers have pieced together the movements of the gang in the seconds before the fatal shot was fired.
They have determined that two of the gang members ran to the patrol car to tackle Garda Donohoe and his colleague, Det Garda Joe Ryan.
Meanwhile, two others attacked and smashed the windows of two Micra and Mazda cars belonging to credit union officials and the fifth member remained behind the wheel of their getaway car, a VW Passat.
They managed to grab €4,000 from the Lordship car but missed lodgments, estimated to be up to €30,000, from the other cars. Inquiries have since established the identity of several gang members. Two of the group are reckoned to be brothers.
One of the suspects came home from the US to spend Christmas in Ireland, but remained in the North. He has since returned to the US.
As part of the investigation, officers spent 10 days in the US where they interviewed a number of potential witnesses. Officers say that, apart from the assistance from US police and the PSNI, they are also receiving invaluable technical assistance from a number of European police forces in examining a huge volume of CCTV footage that has been collected.
Officers said it was clear that some members of the gang were not aware that a garda would be shot when they set out to rob the money and only one raider was involved directly in the shooting.
Meanwhile, Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan issued an appeal to those he believed were "shielding the killers".
Mr Callinan told the Irish Independent yesterday: "The naked reality is that there are people shielding these killers, they have the knowledge and we are appealing to those people to come forward."
Progress had been made with their inquiries, but he acknowledged that this had been slow.
So far, detectives have assembled 2,100 statements, over 1,200 evidence exhibits and CCTV footage accounting for over 40 years in accumulated real-time recording.
"The investigation has been slow, it has been very deliberate, it has been painful at times in terms of the progress," he said.
"We have identified the people involved and we will continue to compile evidence as necessary to bring about a successful conclusion," he added.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he was optimistic the gang would be brought before the courts "in the not-too-distant future". He told the Irish Independent: "We cannot have people on this island who believe that they can freely go out and murder innocent people and that there is no consequence."