One of the country's most notorious burglary gangs is the subject of a major new investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), the Herald can reveal.
The gang, whose strongholds are in south Dublin and north Wicklow, are linked to the horrific aggravated burglary on 89-year-old Eva Sutton in her home in Bray in September 2015 and dozens of other break-ins targeting elderly people across the country.
The Traveller family gang were previously the subject of a "proceeds of crime investigation" by CAB in 2012.
"This is a very prolific crew who have been operating for over two decades and who have been carrying out burglaries on a nationwide level all during that time," a source said.
Senior gang members are based in Bray, Co Wicklow, as well as Blackrock and Stillorgan in south Dublin.
When CAB officers raided an apartment in Stillorgan late last month, they recovered cash to the value of €11,800 and $4,000 in Australian dollars (€2,460).
However, what hurt the gang most was that the bureau was able to secure an order to freeze €248,149 in various bank accounts.
Officers also seized a 201 registered BMW 318, two Rolex watches and designer label clothes.
As well as the Stillorgan apartment, a house in Bray was raided.
"The operation is seen as a significant development in CAB targeting organised crime gangs involved in committing rural crimes across the country," a garda spokesman said at the time.
While there were no arrests in this phase of the investigation, senior sources say the gang are under surveillance by specialist garda units, particularly in the winter months when there is traditionally a spike in burglaries.
"This is an organised crime organisation involved in burglary, theft and money laundering on a nationwide scale," a senior source said
"One of the most sickening things about their activities is that they prey on the elderly and vulnerable, often in rural settings.
"Through a massive network of contacts throughout the country, they identify targets and rob them, sometimes in violent circumstances.
"Like many of the organised burglary gangs operating in the capital, women and children also play an important part in this gang's structure."
The gang has close links to Jamie O'Brien, who is serving an eight-year sentence for tying up, beating and robbing pensioner Ms Sutton.
O'Brien (25) and his close associate Michael Cash (27) were on bail when they broke in to Ms Sutton's home before subjecting her to a 90-minute ordeal, during which she suffered broken bones and a punctured lung.
The pair had more than 120 previous convictions between them, the majority for thefts and robberies, at the time of the crime that shocked the nation.
Ms Sutton pleaded with them to stop, but was kicked in the chest and head, dragged by the hair from room to room and tied up with dog leads.
She tried to call for help by pressing a panic button attached to her necklace, but her attackers ripped it from her.
They also beat her with her own walking stick and held it across her throat.
The pair falsely claimed to be members of the IRA in a further attempt to threaten and intimidate her.
The attack left Ms Sutton with broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken nose, cuts to her face and legs and severe bruising to her body.
O'Brien and Cash showed no mercy as they beat her, even though at one stage she told them: "I'm dying, I'm dying."
Ms Sutton managed to free herself from the dog leads and stumble outside just as a garda patrol car was passing.
Central to the gang is an 18-year-old serial burglar closely linked to O'Brien who has been a prime target for detectives over the past two years.
This thug is based in Co Offaly and has been on the garda radar since he was in his early teens, when he was first identified as a chief target for Operation Thor, the special drive against burglary gangs.
The gang being targeted by CAB also has close links to Gary O'Brien (22), of Old Connaught View, Bray, who was jailed for three years in March 2018 for assaulting a 74-year-old man and his 40-year-old daughter in his efforts to escape from their Dalkey home after he had carried out a burglary there.
The man suffered bruising and cuts to his body, while his daughter described herself as feeling "battered".
She said she felt anxious and vulnerable following the burglary, and was paranoid about home safety.