Dealer visited by missing men has fled the country
A suspected drug dealer who was visited by two Dublin men before they vanished last week has fled his home and is now believed to be in hiding in Northern Ireland.
The man, who is originally from Finglas, left his home in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, with members of his family on Thursday when it emerged that Eoin O'Connor and Anthony Keegan had been reported missing by their families.
Sources say the drug dealer is "terrified" that he is likely to be targeted by criminal associates of the two men who have not been seen since they told relatives they were going to visit him on Tuesday night.
As the search for the men goes into a fifth day, it is understood gardai suspect convicted criminals associated with the two men have been withholding information.
It has now been established that the missing men visited the drug dealer in Ballyjamesduff on Monday and not Tuesday as had been reported.
It also emerged that the men made a number of visits to Co Cavan in the days before their disappearance and there had been "considerable interaction" between Mr O'Connor and a number of individuals in the area involved in the drug trade.
Mr O'Connor's father made a plea to the people responsible for their disappearance.
Noel Connor (57) has pleaded for the two missing men to be returned to their families "whether they are dead or alive".
"I would plead with whoever is responsible not to make things worse and return them to their families," he said.
Sources have revealed that gardai are also focusing on the activities of an Eastern European criminal gang who have become involved in the drug trade in the region.
Gardai do not believe that the drug dealer in Ballyjamesduff, who is aged in his 40s, had anything to do with the disappearance of the two men.
Described as an alcoholic and drug abuser, it is understood that he confirmed to gardai that the men called to him on Monday and left again alone.
It has also been established by gardai that the men returned to Dublin on Monday and left for Cavan again on Tuesday.
Mr O'Connor told a relative to report him missing to the gardai if he didn't return and to give them the name of the man he was supposed to be visiting.
It has been established that Mr O'Connor was sent to collect a €15,000 drug debt, which was owed to the suspected leader of a notorious tiger kidnap gang from north Dublin.
That criminal figure and other associates went to the Ballyjamesduff area searching for the men and were stopped at one stage by a garda traffic unit.
The Cavan drug dealer received several calls from a man – who is facing tiger kidnapping charges – and his associates requesting that he meet them but he failed to turn up.
"This man is too far down the pecking order and would be incapable of abducting or murdering anyone," a source said.
It is suspected that criminal associates of the men made an anonymous 999 call to gardai informing them that two bodies, including that of Mr O'Connor, had been dumped near Kilnaleck in Cavan on Wednesday.
The Irish Independent has also learnt that no extra resources have been provided to gardai involved in the investigation and sources say it has been carried out "on a shoestring".
"There has been no overtime allocated to deploy extra gardai on this investigation and there is no major search operation taking place," a garda source revealed.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Ballymun garda station on 01 6664400, the garda confidential line on 1800 666 111 or any station.