Tuesday 12 December 2017

Dramatic twist as gardai now trawl fields in search for missing men

Anthony Keegan (33) and Eoin O'Connor (32) vanished a week ago amid fears criminal gang had made threats against them

Missing: Eoin O'Connor (left) and Anthony Keegan (right)
Missing: Eoin O'Connor (left) and Anthony Keegan (right)
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THE search for two missing Dublin men has taken another major twist with Gardai now trawling fields and woodland on the Cavan-Meath border.

Anthony Keegan (33) and Eoin O'Connor (32) vanished a week ago amid fears a major criminal gang had made threats against them.

A silver Ford Focus car which had been used by the two men was found abandoned last Friday (April 25) at Lough Owel outside Mullingar.

However, a forensic analysis of the car later found no trace that the men had been the victims of a violent attack.

A major search of Lough Owel, including repeated dives by underwater search teams found nothing.

However, gardai have now switched the focus of their search to the Cavan-Meath border.

Areas being searched include farmland and woodland in the general Mt Nugent area.

The searches are expected  to continue for the next 48 hours though it is unclear whether the operation is linked to specific intelligence.

Eoin O'Connor's father, Noel (57), said their families want them back "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.

Eoin and his life-long friend Anthony were last seen when they travelled from Dublin to Cavan to reportedly collect a €15,000 drugs debt for a member of a criminal gang.

They are believed to have visited a house in Ballyjamesduff.

Before they left Dublin, they told relatives if they did not come back later that night that the gardai should be contacted.

Relatives alerted gardai when they failed to return, and officers received an anonymous call on Wednesday saying the men had been murdered and dumped in a field.

Searches in the Virginia, Ballyjamesduff and Bailieborough areas of Cavan were launched after the pair went missing.

Gardai believe that the suspected drug dealer who the two men visited in Ballyjamesduff has since fled north of the border.

Investigating detectives do not believe that the dealer, who is aged in his 40s, had anything to do with the disappearance of the two men.

The suspected drug dealer had already voluntarily given the gardai a statement to assist them locating the two individuals.

Mr O'Connor, a separated father of four, said his son was not a dangerous man.

"Eoin was not a serious criminal. He must have been working for bigger guys. He was not 'a heavy'. Maybe if he was a bit 'heavier' he might not have got into this situation," he said.

He added that his heart goes out to his son's two daughters, aged 10 and four, who have not been told what has happened.

"He's been a very good dad to the girls. The only times Eoin has been away has been when he travelled to see Liverpool playing," he said.

Speaking of those responsible for his son's disappearance, he said: "I'll forgive them only because I don't want this to happen to any other family."

Searches have taken place in Westmeath after the discovery of the men's Ford Focus at Lough Owel near Mullingar.

It is understood that gardai are also focusing on the activities of an Eastern European gang who have become involved in the drug trade in the region.

Anyone with information should contact Ballymun garda station on 01-6664400, the Garda Confidential Telephone on 1800 666 111 or any garda station.

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