THE names of three gardai who have been actively investigating organised crime in north Dublin were written on a cartridge recovered from a gun used in an armed robbery.
The sinister discovery was made shortly after two men, one of them armed with the gun, held up a cash-in-transit van at the Clare Hall shopping centre in north Dublin around 10.30am.
The raider threatened a security worker and grabbed a cash box he was delivering to the shopping mall before fleeing in a waiting getaway car.
Flights into Dublin Airport were diverted to allow a garda helicopter to join in the hunt for the raiders who escaped in the direction of Belcamp.
Two men were arrested a short time later after gardai found them standing in a stream with the cash box during a search of the grounds of the old Belcamp College.
It is understood that the suspects were covered in dye when an anti-tamper device exploded as the cash box was forced open.
The two men were trying to quench the smoke and dye which was pouring from the box when they were arrested.
All the cash was recovered.
A weapon, described as a "home made" shotgun that was capable of being fired, was also found close by.
When detectives unloaded the weapon they found a live shotgun cartridge containing the names of their three colleagues written along the side. The three named officers are attached to Coolock station and have been particularly active in the investigation of organised crime gangs in the area.
A garda source told the Irish Independent: "These three lads are really active and hard workers who have made a lot of good arrests and seizures. They are making life difficult for a number of serious criminals operating in their area.
"They have been particularly active in investigating the activities of one of the men who was arrested after the robbery. It is being treated as a sinister development.
"If the gun had been fired and the cartridge discharged it would have been found in a follow-up investigation. Perhaps it was intended as some kind of threatening message to the men concerned. It is being investigated at the moment."
One of the men in custody last night was described as "an extremely dangerous" criminal from north Dublin who had been targeted by the officers named on the shotgun round.
Aged in his late 20s he has been high on the garda's most-wanted list for a number of years. He has been arrested on a number of occasions by detectives investigating gangland murders in the north city.
The source added: "Such is the threat level from this man that whenever his home is searched the ERU have to be called in."
The Irish Independent has learnt that one of the officers named on the shotgun cartridge has received threats in the past from associates of the man in custody. Last night gardai were still hunting a third man who was involved in the heist.