Unless a body is found, Gardai will continue excavating the site for another week or two, making it one of the largest operations of its kind
Gardai are entering a "critical stage" in their search for Trevor Deely in heavily wooded land in West Dublin.
As a massive search operation now enters its fourth week, Garda specialist teams are to begin targeted digs at specific locations on the three-acre area of land near Chapelizod, West Dublin.
It is understood that key areas have been selected using a combination of intelligence and technology that helps pinpoint the areas where a body is most likely to be buried.
A senior source said that this was a critical week for the search team, which has been clearing and digging the site for three weeks.
Unless a body is found, Gardai will continue excavating the site for another week or two, making it one of the largest operations of its kind.
Gardai launched what they called the "most significant search" yet for the missing 22-year-old bank official last month, after an informant provided new information about his disappearance.
Mr Deely vanished on December 8, 2000, as he made his way home from his office Christmas party to his apartment in Ballsbridge. The last sighting of him was captured on a CCTV camera that filmed him walking across Baggot Street Bridge towards Haddington Road at 4.14am, after which he vanished without trace.
Mr Deely's family have maintained a relentless campaign to find him over the last 17 years. But no new leads emerged until gardai conducted a cold case review and launched a new appeal for information earlier this year.
As a result, a new informant came forward to suggest that Mr Deely was shot by a criminal after a chance encounter on Haddington Road and that his body was dumped on the site in Chapelizod.
Garda sources say the informant offered no specific details on where the body is buried but they are bound to follow up on the information. The land, owned by Dublin City Council, was heavily overgrown and earth-movers had to be deployed to clear large tracts of the site, to allow teams of specialists to dig and examine the soil.
Hopes of a breakthrough in the case were raised when gardai recovered a gun in the first week of the search but since then nothing of significance has been found. Garda sources have also played down the significance of the gun, saying there is no evidence to connect it to Mr Deely's disappearance.
Gardai are meanwhile continuing to investigate a number of criminals who operated along the area of Dublin's Grand Canal, where Mr Deely was last sighted. Dozens of new statements have been taken since detectives received new information claiming that he was murdered.