Gardai find shotgun used to murder innocent Melanie (16)
GARDAI have found the shotgun used to murder innocent teenager Melanie McCarthy-McNamara who was caught up in a botched assassination attempt on her boyfriend.
The sixteen-year-old girl, who became the youngest victim of a gun gang murder in the State, was described as an "innocent child" by grieving relatives.
She was shot in the head as she sat in a car with boyfriend Christy Moran and two others in Tallaght, Dublin, late on Tuesday night.
Gardai said today that they had found a shotgun, balaclava and gloves near Bianconi Avenue in Citywest Dublin where they found the stolen black Hyundai Santa Fe jeep used by her killers.
The jeep was stolen in Rathmines four days ago and false number plates were attached to it.
Armed gardai patrolled the streets of Tallaght in west Dublin last night amid fears that the feud that claimed Melanie’s life may escalate.
Fifty officers are now working on the case.
Melanie was hit in the head at close range as she sat in the back of a car, which had been parked in the Brookview estate.
Gardai believe she was not the intended target -- and that the gunman had planned to shoot Mr Moran instead.
He was sitting in the front passenger seat of the silver Nissan Almera and escaped injury.
Melanie's aunt, speaking at her home in Drumcairn Avenue, Tallaght, said last night the teenager was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"She was an innocent child, she had nothing to do with anything", she added.
"She didn't deserve it. She wasn't the target.
"She was never involved in anything in her life".
Officers are satisfied the brutal shooting is part of an ongoing row between two Traveller groups that flared up after the murder of Stephen O'Halloran in Tallaght in January 2009.
Senior gardai are concerned that the row could now spread. Officers said last night they were deploying additional personnel to patrol parts of Tallaght to prevent further incidents.
Ballistic tests are under way to gather more information on the fatal shotgun blast. No one else was injured in the attack but the three other men in the Nissan car were left traumatised, gardai said.
Melanie, who would have celebrated her 17th birthday in a fortnight, had been living in the Drumcairn area but also had other addresses in Dublin.
Around 10.30pm on Tuesday she was sitting directly behind her boyfriend in the Almera outside another friend's house at Brookview Way. The friend and possibly a third man were also in the car.
They had driven back to the friend's house after receiving a phone call that stones had been thrown at his home.
Gardai suspect the stone throwing incident may have been deliberate to lure the group back to the house -- and that the killer and at least one accomplice were lying in wait.
The group in the Almera had parked at the house when a black Hyundai Santa Fe SUV pulled alongside.
The gunman, who was sitting in the rear of the Hyundai, produced a long barrelled shotgun and opened fire twice into the Almera. One blast hit Melanie in the head while her companions escaped uninjured.
Gardai think that the gunman possibly panicked as the Hyundai drew parallel with the Almera and opened fire too quickly, hitting the girl almost at point blank and missing the other occupants.
The Hyundai sped away into Fortunestown Lane and cut across through City West where it was abandoned at Bianconi Avenue, on the far side of the Naas dual carriageway to Brownsbarn.
It was not burnt out and gardai hope to gain vital clues to the identity of the killers from a forensic examination.The vehicle had been stolen three days earlier in Rathmines and fitted with false 07 registration plates.
Meanwhile, Melanie was taken to Tallaght hospital in the Almera but died shortly early yesterday morning despite frantic efforts by doctors and nurses to save her life.
The occupants of the Almera were later interviewed by the gardai.
A post-mortem examination by deputy State pathologist Dr Khalid Jabbar was completed yesterday evening and confirmed that Melanie had died from gunshot wounds to the head.
In the previous fatal shooting linked to the feud the victim was also shot in the head as he sat in a car with two friends in a housing estate in Tallaght.
Melanie's boyfriend Christy Moran is understood to have had no involvement in Mr O'Halloran's death three years ago. Since then, a number of shootings, beatings and threats have been under garda investigation to determine if they were linked to the row.
Gardai are also trying to establish if two recent pipebomb incidents at houses in Tallaght had any connection. One involved a viable explosive device, which was defused by an Army bomb disposal team, while the other was a hoax.
Garda Chief Supt John Manley said yesterday that Melanie's murder was a particularly heinous crime and he called on the community to take a step back and reflect on what had taken place.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that while all violent deaths were shocking, the killing of a young person was especially so.
He said the gardai were determined to bring the killers to justice and he called on anyone, who could help the gardai, to contact them.