GANGLAND murder victim John Paul Joyce had been under threat since he was released from prison two months ago.
The 30-year-old Traveller, whose frozen body was found in a ditch at the back of Dublin Airport at the weekend, regularly wore a bullet-proof vest.
But he was not wearing it when he was shot dead, shortly after leaving a house in Coolock, on the northside of the city, on Thursday night.
Joyce, of Grove Lane, Malahide Road, Dublin, was a key figure in a major cocaine and cannabis trafficking gang, which had been involved in a deadly feud with a rival outfit.
His death, the first gangland murder of the year, is the third involving the feuding parties.
However, senior garda officers are not certain if the shooting was directly linked to the feud. Gardai disclosed that Joyce had a number of enemies, including the capital's biggest criminal, who was also a trafficking rival and had clashed with Joyce in the past.
Joyce's 20-year-old brother Tommy was shot dead last June at Grove Lane halting site, near Darndale in north Dublin, while sitting with a friend outside his home.
Both brothers had become wealthy as a result of drug trafficking and John Paul Joyce was believed to own property in Spain. He had returned to Dublin last Tuesday from a short trip to Spain and was reported missing by his partner on Thursday night.
Joyce was last seen alive in the Ferrycarrig area of Coolock at around 7pm on Thursday. His family believed he had gone to meet an associate. Several searches were carried out by local gardai and the air support unit around the Coolock, Malahide and Portmarnock areas on Friday, when detectives were briefed on his disappearance.
Joyce's body was found on Saturday afternoon partly submerged in a flooded ditch at Dunbro Lane, a quiet country lane near Dublin Airport.
The grim find was made by passers-by, who spotted blood marks in the snow. From the frozen condition of the body, gardai believe it had been there since Thursday night.
Joyce survived an attempt on his life in June 2008 when shots were fired at him as he sat in a car outside Total Fitness gym on the Malahide Road. He was seriously injured, but recovered.
The gunman believed to be responsible for that attack was also the prime suspect for the gangland murder, last January, of Michael 'Roly' Cronin in the north inner city. The suspect has since disappeared and is presumed to have become another murder victim.
In October 2008, Joyce was found guilty of an attack that left his victim brain-damaged and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, with the final year suspended after he agreed to pay €10,000 compensation.
At the time, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Joyce had attacked Conor Weldon during St Patrick's Day celebrations in a pub in Rush in north Co Dublin because the man's son had accidentally spilled some drink on a member of the Traveller group.
The court heard Mr Weldon had been kicked and stamped on the head and that a door was also repeatedly slammed on his head. He spent several weeks in a coma and it was more than six months before he walked again.
With Joyce jailed for two years and another attacker for 18 months, Mr Weldon protested: "I get the rest of my life. I just can't understand it."
Last January, the Criminal Assets Bureau seized two vehicles, worth over €100,000, from Tommy Joyce. The High Court was told he was a member of a well-organised drug trafficking gang, known as the Joyce brothers, based at Grove Lane, Malahide Road. Despite large seizures by the gardai, the gang continued to distribute cocaine and cannabis, the court heard.
The murder of Tommy Joyce in June was believed to be linked to the fatal shooting of John 'BJ' Clarke outside an apartment block in Artane, north Dublin a month earlier.
Garda intelligence suggested that Tommy Joyce could have supplied the weapons involved in the Clarke murder.
Prior to being jailed for the pub assault, John Paul Joyce, a father-of-two who was described in court as an apprentice butcher, had three previous convictions -- for being drunk, threatening and abusive behaviour and a road traffic offence.
But he had also been questioned by gardai about drug seizures, including one find with a street value of €500,000. The Criminal Assets Bureau seized one of his watches, believed to be worth €30,000. He was released from jail last November and immediately came under threat.
Garda intelligence has indicated that a €30,000 "contract" was placed on Joyce's head shortly before he was released from prison.
They believe the "contract" was handed out by a major Dublin west side crime gangboss.
Gardai believe he left a house in Ferrycarrig Road in Coolock to meet an associate but was abducted, bundled into a vehicle and taken to Dunbro Lane where he was shot and his body dumped in the ditch.
A post-mortem examination on his body was carried out by state pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy at Connolly hospital in Blanchardstown yesterday afternoon. The examination, which concluded last night, showed that Joyce had been shot several times in the head.