The occupants of a car that was involved in a fatal crash while being chased by gardai were being targeted as part of a nationwide clampdown on burglaries, Operation Fiacla.
The driver of the VW Polo which smashed into a Citroen on the M7 motorway, killing the driver Diana Harton (43) on Thursday night, has more than 20 criminal convictions for car theft and burglaries.
Another occupant of the car has been arrested several times in connection with robberies and criminal charges are pending.
Three of those involved in the crash were on bail for offences linked to robberies and burglaries.
The five people on board were being pursued by gardai from three counties following a spate of burglaries in Trim, Co Meath, and Newport, Co Tipperary, earlier in the day.
The driver of the car was 23 and the others were teenagers with the youngest aged 12.
Last night, gardai revealed that officers were involved in a frantic search along the motorway close to the horrific crash fearing that a child might also have been in Ms Harton's car.
Gardai were concerned when they spotted a booster seat in the wreckage of the Citroen car which they say was "demolished" in the impact and propelled through the air, landing on its roof.
"When the child's seat was spotted, a search was carried out in case a child had been involved. It was a horrific scene and the deceased's car was demolished," a source said.
Originally from Tallaght, Dublin, Ms Harton was a single woman who lived in Kildare where she worked as a child minder.
Gardai said that she died instantly after she was rear-ended by the VW Polo.
Before the fatal crash, officers in the pursuing squad cars had alerted colleagues ahead that the Polo was being driven "very dangerously".
Gardai said that the gang's car was full of stolen beer bottles which were strewn across the motorway. Officers have taken blood samples from the driver to test for alcohol and drugs.
Builder's tools, which had been stolen from a van earlier that evening, were found in the car along with house-breaking implements.
It is understood that the car was bought in Co Meath this week for as little at €100 and that the five occupants are from Dublin and Meath. It is understood at least three of the suspects are related to each other.
The 1996 Volkswagen was bought in Meath before the gang went on a nationwide crime spree.
It is understood the gang began their rampage in Trim, Co Meath, at lunchtime on Thursday, continuing for more than 400km as they made their way to the Tipperary village of Newport.
After committing several thefts in Trim, they left a petrol station in Newport without paying €65 for fuel at 6.30pm. In a second incident, they stole €40 worth of goods, including packets of socks, from a nearby service station where they dumped more empty beer bottles.
They also stole €1,500 worth of tools from a vehicle in the townland of Ballymackeogh, which is located along the Tipperary/Limerick county boundary.
By the time the five-man gang fled Tipperary towards Dublin at high speed, gardai had been alerted and patrol cars were called out to stop the vehicle that they were travelling in, which is understood to have been uninsured. Gardai intercepted the Polo at the toll plaza near Portlaoise after it was observed tailgating another car through the toll barrier.
A high-speed chase then began on the northbound carriageway of the M7 with three patrol cars from the Laois/Offaly garda division in pursuit.
Gardai contacted colleagues in Kildare for support as the chase continued along the M7 before the carnage unfolded at the J13 turn-off at 8.45pm. Four units of Kildare Fire Brigade travelled from Newbridge and Monasterevin and fire crews worked to cut the trapped victims from the wreckage.
One of the injured raiders was on a ventilator overnight on Thursday in Naas while another required surgery on his hand.
Two separate investigations are under way.