Hutch associates held after gardaí intercept two cars carrying AK47s
Two close associates of jailed gangster Derek 'Del Boy' Hutch were in garda custody last night after a dramatic operation linked to the Regency Hotel gun attack.
Two male relatives and another suspect were being grilled last night by detectives following a weapon seizure in an evening operation.
It came less than 24 hours after the murder of Noel 'Kingsize' Duggan (58), who was believed to have been known to all three arrested men.
It is understood that two of the suspects only arrived back in the country yesterday, but had been under surveillance by the Special Detective Unit (SDU) upon their return.
One of the criminals in custody, a very close friend of 'Del Boy', is classified as one of Ireland's most dangerous criminals - already before the courts for gangland-related crimes.
A source said it's not known whether the individuals involved were moving weapons or on their way to carry out a hit.
Members of the elite Emergency Response Unit (ERU) intercepted their two vehicles in Co Meath at about 5pm yesterday evening.
Sources revealed that a high-ranking member of the rival Kinahan cartel currently lives near the area where the two seizures occurred.
At least four weapons were recovered as well as 500 rounds of ammunition and silencers.
When detectives searched the two vehicles they recovered two AK-47 assault rifles as well as a large quantity of ammunition.
Eyewitnesses described seeing two vehicles - a black Audi SUV and a black Audi four-door car - being forced off the road by gardaí before armed detectives swooped on the occupants.
The dramatic scene occurred near the Plantagen Garden Centre in Dunboyne, Co Meath.
A follow-up search was carried out in the Ratoath area, close to the scene where two vehicles were found burnt out following the fatal shooting of Duggan on Wednesday night.
Gardaí recovered two semi-automatic weapons, a sizeable quantity of ammunition as well as a number of silencers.
The three men, all aged in their 30s, were arrested and brought to Ashbourne and Kells garda stations.
Sources said that the seizures "potentially saved a number of lives" and described the finding of silencers as a "very sinister" development in the feud.
Noel 'Kingsize' Duggan was gunned down outside an address in The Old Mill, Ratoath, Co Meath shortly before 8pm on Wednesday evening. He was blasted a number of times by an assailant as he sat in his car.
He was a close associate and friend of Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch.
His family called for no retaliation following his brutal murder. A close relative said: "The family are saying there should be no retaliation for this.
"Noel was a man who raised an extremely decent family. He had two boys and one girl who are all very hardworking people.
"One of his sons is a barrister, another is a taxi driver and his daughter is a hardworking woman. They have never been in any trouble.
"Since this shooting, his family are terrified that they will become targets as well - but they want to make it clear that they want no revenge for this."
The relative also explained that 'Kingsize' Duggan had been in such fear of being sucked into the deadly feud that he did not attend fellow feud victim Eddie Hutch's funeral last month.
"No one in the family has slept since this happened," they added. Duggan is the fourth victim of the murderous feud between the Kinahan cartel and the Hutch mob and the third close associate of Gerry Hutch to be shot dead.
Gardaí yesterday said that at least one gunman had been involved in the murder of Duggan.
They appealed for witnesses who may have seen a man in dark clothes running from the house in The Old Mill estate in Ratoath around 7.45pm.
The gunman was driven away in a dark-coloured BMW, found a short time later burnt out along with a second car at nearby Cairn Court, off Glascairn Lane.