Irene White confided her fear of 'mastermind' just weeks before she was murdered
Murder victim Irene White confided in a friend three weeks before her horrific death that she was living in fear of the man gardaí believe was the "mastermind" who organised the attack.
Independent.ie has learned that the mother of three, who was stabbed 34 times at her home at the Ice House, Demesne Road, Dundalk, Co Louth, on April 6, 2005, also described having an "eerie feeling that someone was watching her".
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In a separate development, it is understood that a former girlfriend of Niall Power, the Dundalk man sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder this week, had warned Irene that Power and the "mastermind" were plotting against her.
According to the witness, Power's girlfriend told Irene that "Niall and (mastermind) were always scheming ways to get rid of her".
The former girlfriend also went to the gardaí following the murder and told them everything she had heard the two men talking about in the time leading up to the incident.
Another witness told how Irene had also related how the "mastermind" had threatened her that she "wouldn't know the day or the hour that she would be done" and that he would have an alibi when it did happen.
Meanwhile, the Irish Independent can reveal how Power and the "mastermind" went to great lengths to implicate completely innocent people in the murder in a bid to deflect the spotlight from themselves.
In an interview with the gardaí shortly after Ms White's body had been found, the "mastermind" nominated Power's ex-girlfriend as a possible suspect because he knew she might go to the gardaí.
He also pointed the finger of suspicion at a teenage petty criminal with whom the murder victim had a "run-in" over his involvement with a relative.
The teenager was quickly eliminated from the enquiry by detectives.
The suspect who gardaí have described as the "prime mover" and who is expected to become the third man to be charged in connection with the murder, even tried to muddy the waters further by suggesting that there had been bad feeling between Irene and members of her wider family.
The "mastermind" told gardaí that Power's former girlfriend had called Irene a "two-faced lying bitch" and then alleged that she had been "quite violent" towards Power during their relationship.
He continued to spin his lies when he even claimed that the woman had once "put a scissors to his [Power's] throat", which detectives say was a pre-emptive attempt to discredit any evidence she might later offer to gardaí.
The suspect claimed that he had seen a car similar to the woman's parked outside Irene's home two weeks before the murder.
"That's why I am curious why [the woman's] car could be parked at the Ice House on Good Friday and Easter Sunday," the 'mastermind' said.
Meanwhile in his initial statements to the gardaí, Niall Power also attempted to divert the garda attention onto the teenage petty criminal.
Power told them: "I can't think of any reason why this has happened and I don't know her to have had any enemies.
"The only dispute she had that I know of was with [named teenager]... I did not assault Irene White on this day or any other day and I don't know anyone who did.
"I am not in possession of any information other than what I've given you today."
However, despite their co-ordinated stories, the two accomplices were nominated as the prime suspects in the case within hours of the investigation beginning.
There was a clear motive established which we cannot report for legal reasons.
A year later, on May 24, 2006, Power and the second suspect were both arrested and questioned at length in connection with the murder but there was insufficient evidence to sustain a criminal charge against either man.
When the allegations by his former girlfriend that he and the third man were "going to do" Irene White were put to him, Power denounced the woman as "crazy", claiming that she "had it in" for him.
On the day of the murder, gardaí also established that Power had driven his van past Ms White's home at 11.48am - 40 minutes before her body was discovered by her elderly mother.
Gardaí always suspected that Power had acted as the middle man in the crime and had been checking the area to possibly meet the killer.
Although they had no way of knowing it at the time, Power had even given them the name of the killer.
In a cautioned statement, he stated: "I met Anthony Lambe, a student at the college who works for me part-time. He is from Castleblayney. I gave him his wages."
Power repeated this a year later when he was arrested for questioning about the murder.
The third suspect had a cast-iron alibi which was corroborated by phone data and CCTV from the event.
There was no forensic evidence or telephone data that could sustain a conspiracy charge against the men at the time and the case remained open. But following a special appeal for information broadcast on 'Crimecall', a woman contacted the team to say that a former boyfriend, Anthony Lambe from Castleblayney, had confessed years earlier to her that he was the killer.
When he was arrested, Lambe immediately confessed his role and how he had been instructed to stab Irene White in the chest by Power.
Then, on the night that Lambe was sentenced to life after pleading guilty, Power walked into Dundalk garda station and also confessed.
Power has also given gardaí a full statement implicating his close friend, the mastermind, who he said had put pressure on him to have Irene White murdered.