Gang arrested during raid on gun shop
A RAID on a firearms dealer's shop was foiled by heavily armed detectives from the garda's elite squad.
The Emergency Response Unit (ERU) swooped as the Dublin-based gang was about to storm the building. Three men and a woman were arrested and two handguns were recovered.
The garda interception took place shortly before 7pm outside the dealer's premises, known as 'The Tackle Shop', at Rahan, near Tullamore in Co Offaly.
It followed a surveillance operation and a lengthy investigation into the activities of a crime gang which is suspected of being involved in a number of robberies.
Apart from the weapons, detectives also seized a stolen van – the getaway vehicle – and a can of petrol which was to be used to set it on fire.
Balaclava helmets, wigs and gloves were also recovered.
Senior gardai said last night that the suspects were well known to them and hailed the capture as a significant intervention.
"If the raid had been successful, it would have meant that a lot more firearms would have been available to carry out serious crime in the run-up to Christmas," one officer said.
"Weapons stolen in previous robberies from gun shops tended to be sold off in smaller lots and ended up in the hands of crime gangs right around the country."
The ERU is currently spearheading a covert drive against known armed robbers who are believed to be preparing for a spate of raids on lucrative targets during the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy.
The four suspects were taken into custody and were being held for questioning last night under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, which allows gardai to hold them without charge for a period of up to three days.
Meanwhile, gardai are hunting shotgun raiders who escaped with about €8,000 after a cash-in-transit robbery in Drogheda, Co Louth.
Two men were behind the heist, which targeted the security van collecting cash from a shop at the Scotch Hall shopping centre.
The raiders rolled up at the centre in a new Audi model and then made their move as a security guard was returning to the van.
One of the raiders remained behind the wheel of the getaway car while the other, who was armed with a sawn-off shotgun, cornered the guard.
The gunman grabbed a cash box with the money and jumped into the Audi, which then sped away from the scene.
No shots were fired and nobody was injured in the robbery, which took place at about 4.30pm yesterday.
A large garda search operation was quickly mounted but the raiders successfully made their escape.
The shopping centre was the target of a similar robbery five weeks ago and detectives are now trying to establish if the two incidents are linked.