Interpol and Europol are hunting four members of an East European gang that stole €5,000 from a 73-year-old woman minutes after she had taken the cash from a bank to pay for her brother's funeral expenses.
Interpol and Europol have liaised with gardaí over the gang whose cruel theft from the Dungarvan, Co Waterford, pensioner shocked people across the country.
The identities of the gang members have been confirmed thanks to CCTV footage, but European police forces, liaising with Interpol and Europol, are trying to confirm a precise location for them.
The theft prompted the sharing of CCTV security camera footage obtained by gardaí with European police agencies.
A European Arrest Warrant (EAW) will be prepared and, once the four are found, they will be arrested pending extradition to Ireland.
It is believed the gang - composed of Polish and Romanian nationals - fled Ireland in the wake of publicity over the theft of the pensioner's funeral cash.
Gardaí believe the gang of two men and two women are responsible for a number of distraction-style robberies in Waterford, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Dublin and Wexford over the past two months.
The woman who had €5,000 stolen from her in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, has been told there is now little chance of the cash being recovered.
Her extended family have now had to come together to replace the €5,000 which the deceased had saved up over several years for his own funeral expenses.
Another brother of the 73-year-old woman described it as "an appallingly cruel and mean-spirited crime".
The man, who wants his family to remain anonymous, said the cash had been withdrawn from a Dungarvan bank minutes earlier by his sister to pay for their 79-year-old brother's funeral expenses.
His brother had died the week earlier and had been buried four days before the cash was stolen from his sister.
"It was tough enough for our family to deal with my brother's death but this has just caused so much upset," he said.
"How can anyone target an elderly woman like this? It is just terrible.
"My sister was heartbroken by our brother's death but this has just devastated her."
The €5,000 had been saved up by the 79-year-old man out of his pension over a 10-year period to pay for his own funeral.
The cash had been given to his younger sister for safe- keeping pending his funeral arrangements.
"My sister was clearly watched in the bank," her brother said.
"She was then followed through the town by a woman and, when she came to the church and stopped because a funeral was taking place, she was approached from behind by a foreign-sounding man.
"He showed her a map and then asked her for directions in broken English.
"My sister pointed out to him that it was a map of the UK and not Ireland. The fella then said 'Sorry' and left.
"It was a short time later my sister realised that the money had been taken from her bag."
It is believed that while the man distracted her, a woman took items from her handbag.
Gardaí studied CCTV security camera footage in Dungarvan and obtained images of one of the female gang members.
Detectives also believe the same gang is responsible for thefts over recent weeks in Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel and Kilkenny.
The bulk of the thefts involve an element of distraction, with one gang member getting a person's attention while the other targets their bag or coat pockets.
"These are very skilled thieves and they seem to devote a lot of time in selecting their targets," a Garda source said.
The family of the Dungarvan pensioner paid tribute to the gardaí who have devoted so much time to tracking down the culprits.