A young gang boss whose mob has been the driving force in the savage Drogheda feud was in garda custody last night being questioned under firearms legislation over the kidnap and torture of a criminal.
Our exclusive photo shows members of the gardai's Armed Support Unit (ASU) raiding one of six properties in the town yesterday, which led to the arrests of four men.
The gang boss was detained while his brother, a 44-year-old man and his son - who is in his 20s - were all rearrested over the savage attack.
Sources say gardai believe the 23-year-old mob boss, who has close links to north Dublin mobsters, was present when a 22-year-old man was kidnapped on November 11.
He was abducted by a mob involved in the Drogheda feud but sources say he is not an active participant in the brutal vendetta.
Armed gardai saved the man's life when they stormed a house to discover him stripped in a bath. He was bleeding heavily after being slashed over half a dozen times in the face, neck and torso.
Gardai believe he was about to be murdered if they had not intervened when they did.
The Herald also understands that a gun was placed in the man's mouth during the ordeal. The gun has not yet been recovered by officers.
In a bizarre twist, the Herald can reveal that associates of the torture gang paid "big money" for a special "bullet-proof reinforced door" to be placed at the front of a house used by the mob.
Yesterday, officers removed the door as part of their investigations. The scene in Moneymore showed the urgency with which the six searches were carried out at locations around Drogheda by members of the ASU, the Emergency Response Unit, local garda and the Criminal Assets Bureau. At one house in Moneymore, the main glass panel in the front of the property - which appeared to be a bullet-proof or toughened unit - was left lying against the front of the building.
It had been shattered and there was a hole visible in it, as if caused by a projectile.
The front door had been removed from its frame and appeared to have been taken from the scene as part of the operation.
Later in the day, a white sheet was hung from the door frame, obscuring the view into the house from the road. This property was previously targeted by gardai in a search operation on November 11 when they rescued the young man who was found abducted, stripped and stabbed in a bath at another house in the area.
Gardai in unmarked cars could be seen patrolling the Moneymore estate during the day, and there was an air of tension around the area where garda searches had taken place.
Meanwhile, a Traveller camp on the Cement Road on the outskirts of Drogheda, where associates of the opposing faction in the feud were based, has now been demolished.
It was at this site that Owen Maguire was shot and injured in an attempt on his life in July.
Maguire is now in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire after being blasted a number of times.
Gardai believe he was shot by one of the capital's most dangerous hitmen - a now-jailed Coolock thug who is the chief suspect for a string of murders in the capital.
Weeks after the attempted murder of Maguire, gardai found almost €270,000 in cash and €5,000 of cocaine in a separate search at the site.
The Drogheda feud escalated out of control on November 11 when a viable explosive device was placed in the exhaust pipe of a car belonging to the girlfriend of the 23-year-old arrested man.
A senior source told the Herald that gardai believe the device was detonated by a criminal using a mobile phone and had melted in the heat of the detonation.
While the target of that incident is not involved in the deadly feud, her boyfriend is one of the main protagonists in the mob which is now at war with a dangerous faction linked to gangster Maguire.
The 23-year-old thug was considered "up and coming" but it is his links to serious north Dublin criminals that have made the feud so dangerous.
With no sign of the Drogheda feud ending, senior sources have revealed that more and more gangsters are being sucked into the vendetta, including a 27-year-old south inner city-based man who was arrested in August 2017 for a botched murder attempt on Hutch gang associate James 'Mago' Gately three months earlier.
The man, who is part of the anti-Maguire faction, is a suspect for a spate of recent shootings in Ballymun.
He is also a suspect in the recent gun murder of Robert Sheridan in Ballymun and is viewed by gardai as a dangerous gun-for-hire with strong ties to the Kinahan Cartel.
Senior sources say the gang warfare is the main priority for detectives in Louth and Meath, with specialist armed units being drafted in on a regular basis.
Such is the seriousness of the situation that all garda leave in the Louth division has been cancelled and armed officers were last night continuing to patrol the streets.