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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Pregnant woman dives for cover in daylight gun killing linked to Drogheda feud

  • Family also lucky to escape injury after stray bullet strikes mother's car

  • Close associate of mob boss becomes first fatality of Drogheda gang feud

Keith Brannigan (inset) was killed in full view of families
Keith Brannigan (inset) was killed in full view of families
Forensic teams were searching for evidence yesterday

Ian Begley and Robin Schiller

A man was executed in front of children in a caravan park yesterday in a dramatic escalation of the Drogheda gang feud.

The victim, Keith Branigan (30), was "trapped" in between two pieces of decking where he was working when the gunman approached.

Shattered: The woman owner of the car and her children were just returning when the bullets hit
Shattered: The woman owner of the car and her children were just returning when the bullets hit

A red car, believed to be a Lexus, arrived at the site in Clogherhead at 3pm. The gunman jumped from the car and fired a number of shots, which all missed the target but hit a number of cars nearby. One car owner, who was with his two children, was not in the car and only noticed the bullet lodged in the vehicle after driving a short distance up the road.

A pregnant woman dived to the ground on hearing the gunshots and a woman with children had a lucky escape when a bullet hit her car.

Gardaí believe the gunman then fired another four shots at Branigan.

"He was effectively trapped and when the gunman realised this he walked up and fired four shots into him," a source said.

The hit team then fled to an area known as Whiteriver.

Branigan, a very close associate of a Louth mob boss, is the first murder victim of the bloody Drogheda gang feud, which has escalated over the past year.

Victim: Keith Branigan was shot at a caravan site
Victim: Keith Branigan was shot at a caravan site

Two children saw his daylight execution - and were lucky to get away uninjured.

One of the gunman's stray bullets smashed through the backseat windows of their mother's car.

A woman who was in the vicinity of the shooting told the Irish Independent the mother and her two children were on the way back to their vehicle when the assailant open fired.

"Once they realised what was happening, the mother started screaming, 'Get the kids into the shop, quick.'

"Thank God they weren't in the car at the time because the bullet travelled right through one window and out the other.

"They are obviously very distressed, but the important thing is that they're OK."

After the hit team fled, they rammed through a padlocked gate into a field and burnt out the car.

Sources said a Garda patrol car had passed by the area after people reported a suspicious vehicle in the area from about noon.

However the second getaway vehicle, a high-powered black car, managed to evade gardaí as they gave chase.

"This was a well-planned and organised shooting. It is pure luck that innocent children or adults weren't caught up in this, which has almost happened before in this feud," a source said.

Dozens of families were inside the Ashling Caravan Park at the time of the attack, causing widespread panic and confusion among the holidaymakers.

Detectives are treating the fatal shooting as the first murder linked to the Drogheda feud, which has seen more than 80 violent incidents.

Gardaí believe Branigan was a mid-level gang member of a violent drugs mob feuding with associates of Eoin Maguire, who himself survived an attempt on his life as part of the bitter dispute.

Despite being in the middle echelons of the criminal gang, Branigan was regarded as a trusted lieutenant of the 24-year-old leader of the crime group feuding with Maguire.

Detectives attached to both local Garda units in Louth and specialist national units are now bracing for a backlash following the murder.

At the scene yesterday, the local woman, who did not want to be named, said she is worried that the gang-related violence in Drogheda is expanding into the outer regions of Co Louth.

"This area is so quiet and we would hate to see that these types of attacks will become the norm. It's very frightening to even think about," she said.

Meanwhile, a number of family members of Branigan stood by the scene and watched gardaí carry out their investigations following the shooting. A distraught relative described the Drogheda man as "one of the nicest guys in the world".

"He wasn't a father, but only got married very recently," he said. "He didn't deserve this at all, it's just awful."

Originally from Ballsgrove in Drogheda, Branigan had a number of convictions including for assault, burglary and criminal damage.

Last night, a Garda spokesman said: "An incident room has been established at Drogheda garda station. Gardaí are appealing for anyone with information to come forward."

Irish Independent

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