THE Garda's Organised Crime Unit is in the advanced stages of a major investigation into a dangerous north Dublin criminal who officers say is behind a staggering nine armed cash-in-transit robberies since March.
The 29-year-old reformed drug addict from Finglas, north Dublin, is now in custody after being arrested on outstanding theft warrants by heavily armed members of the OCU at a Finglas service station.
The Herald can reveal that the suspect who is linked to major north Dublin gangland criminals and a vicious traveller gang is responsible for a one-man crime wave over the past seven months.
A senior source explained: "Mostly this individual operates on his own and his modus operandi is to carry a loaded handgun with him when he takes part in these jobs in clapped out cars, usually models from 1996 to 1999.
"We are dealing here with a very dangerous, ruthless individual."
An example of the criminal's recklessness was observed in Charlestown Shopping Centre in Finglas last week when €18,000 was stolen in a cash-in-transit robbery which left dozens of children terrified when they saw a gunman threatening a security employee.
He has been arrested by gardai in relation to a spree of other cash-in-transit robberies and may face criminal charges before the end of the year as soon as crucial forensic evidence is cross-checked.
The hood was the main focus of an operation last year by detectives based in Dun Laoghaire after 'drive-off's' from service stations across the capital in which the thug drove off without paying for fuel.
At the time, it was estimated that he had hit 50 service stations in that crime spree but the criminal activity that he has been involved in since March is of a much more serious nature.
Gardai believe that the suspect was involved in a botched €50,000 cash-in-transit robbery at West End retail park on August 13.
The very next day the criminal is suspected of having an accomplice when they were involved in a €50,000 robbery in nearby Tyrrelstown Plaza.
Shortly afterwards firefighters, arriving at the scene of a blazing car were amazed to see several €50 notes fluttering in the breeze, but the gangsters got away with most of the cash.
April was a particularly busy month for the hood after he escaped with €50,000 from the Littlepace Shopping Centre in Clonee, Co Meath, just days before he was involved in a failed robbery in Bettystown, Co Meath outside a local hotel.
The gangster got a similar result in Gorey, Co Wexford, in April, when he stole a cash box which had no money in it.
However, he had more luck in Sandymount, south Dublin, shortly after this when he got away with €50,000 from a cash van delivering money to a bank.
And the thug is also the chief suspect for two armed robberies in March – the robbery of €30,000 from the delivery to a Marks and Spencer shop in Blanchardstown on St Patrick's Day and a €30,000 haul from a cash delivery to a Superquinn store in Walkinstown.
He is extremely well known to gardai and previously received a lengthy suspended prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to carrying out three robberies, five burglaries and one attempted robbery between November 2006 and June 2007.