THE killers of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe stopped to steal a handbag from a credit union official after they murdered the brave officer, it has emerged.
Gardai are building up a dossier on the five-strong gang, who shot the father of two outside the premises in Lordship, Dundalk, last Friday week.
One officer said: "The fact that they snatched a handbag after missing out on the main credit union collection bag and shooting a garda without any warning indicates the type of criminal we are confronting."
The prime suspects for the murder are a gang of young criminals operating on both sides of the north Louth, south Armagh border.
At least one of them is before the courts in the coming weeks on unrelated charges.
Gardai say the raiders are part of a group of more than 15 criminals who have been involved in a spate of robberies, burglaries, car and fuel thefts and traffic offences.
The officer added: "This investigation will last as long as it takes as we build up a case against the killers.
"We are gathering a lot of information and intelligence on them but will not be making any arrests until we have turned this into evidence and have something to put to them.
"A large number of inquiries have yet to be completed before we arrive at that stage."
Det Gda Donohoe was murdered when he was hit by a shotgun blast in the head as he was stepping out of his patrol car to find out why the exit from the credit union car park had been blocked by a VW Passat.
As he was being shot, other members of the gang, who had jumped out from behind a wall, smashed the window of a car. This vehicle was taking the €4,000 lodgments from the Lordship premises to a bank night safe in Dundalk town.
Another gang member focused on the car owned by a female official, who had locked up the premises, and grabbed the handbag from a seat.
But they missed up to €30,000 in takings which were in another car, and had been gathered from credit union premises at Omeath, Cooley and Carlingford.
The cars had intended to travel in convoy to the bank, escorted by the garda car containing Det Gda Donohoe and Det Gda Joe Ryan.
Gang members were aware of the arrangement as a result of surveillance they carried out at the four premises on previous Friday nights.
The navy Passat car had been stolen from outside a house which had been burgled by the thieves, in Clogherhead, Co Louth, three nights before the shooting.
Gardai are trying to establish where the Passat was stored.