GANGLAND victim Michael Kelly was shot dead over a small drugs debt, gardai believe.
The low-level criminal was involved in a number of disputes with city gangs and may have been lured to his death.
Kelly (27) – a father of three children aged between four months and seven – was shot once in the chest as he walked in a green area near the Luas line in Inchicore yesterday.
Sources told the Herald that gardai have information that Kelly owed money for drugs but officers were unaware of an imminent threat against his life.
He was on bad terms with dealers in the south inner city and Crumlin after he moved in on their patches.
Gardai are investigating whether Kelly, who is originally from St Teresa's Gardens, was lured to his death on the pretence of a 'meeting' at the green area at Davitt Road.
"He most certainly knew his killer and the key to solving this crime is definitely in the Dublin 8 area," a source said.
"The victim did bits and pieces for a number of the drugs gangs in the south inner city – he had strong connections to a crew operating out of St Teresa's Gardens in particular.
"He was not big time or anything like that, but clearly he owed money to some much more serious individuals and he was either unwilling or unable to pay up," a senior source said.
"He has also been causing levels of annoyance by moving into other dealers' patches and has been seriously assaulted on at least one occasion because of that," the source added.
Gardai revealed last night that a number of commuters who passed the scene on two Luas trams shortly before the shooting have described seeing an argument take place.
Detectives are especially interested in talking to anyone who saw a 5ft 10ins-6ft man wearing a sky-blue hoodie with white shoulders at around 10am to help with their enquiries.
They also want to talk to anyone who may have seen a four-door Opel Astra car in an unusual metallic grey/lilac colour, with the registration 99LH5711, which was later found burned out.
The Herald can reveal that Kelly was the victim of a serious assault at a pub in Dublin's Cork Street last August in which he was chased and attacked by three criminals who have been involved in gangland feuding in the south inner city.
Kelly did not make a complaint to gardai and the investigation stalled when no witnesses came forward.
One of the criminals was being described last night as "a person of interest" regarding yesterday's assassination.
This Crumlin-based criminal was busted in a major drugs operation earlier this year and has previous convictions.
A pistol used in the murder was located in a burnt-out car which gardai think was used as the getaway car. The on-fire vehicle was discovered in the nearby Rialto Court estate just minutes after the shooting.
"The fact that gardai have the weapon used in the attack may be of a significant help here," said a source.
Kelly, who had a small number of previous convictions, was due to appear in court tomorrow on fresh charges.