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Stabbed 17 times, but lived to help convict five gang rivals

Owen Treacy and other family members have been under 24-hour armed garda protection.

And for good reason.

His evidence led to the conviction of five Limerick underworld kingpins -- but now his brother Daniel, an innocent bread delivery man, lies dead.

From the outset, the court was told that this was a "one-witness case" with the charges against the five accused depending on the evidence of Owen Treacy.

During eight days in the witness box, Mr Treacy alleged that four men were to be murdered on the night Kieran Keane was shot dead and he himself was left fighting for his life after being stabbed 17 times.

Owen Treacy gave evidence that he and his uncle Kieran Keane were abducted by the gang, tied up and hooded.

They were transferred to another house before being handed over to elements of the Ryan gang, with whom the Keanes are engaged in a deadly feud.

From there, they were driven to a lonely road outside the city and Keane was "shot like a dog", according to Treacy.

He himself was stabbed 17 times but lived to tell the tale, and ultimately to help convict the five men.

Treacy, the chief prosecution witness, was in court as the jury came back with their verdict in December 2003.

Armed gardaĆ­ from the Emergency Response Unit formed a barrier between the five accused, their supporters and Owen Treacy who sat at the back of the court.

Relatives and supporters of the accused and the victim were searched before being allowed to enter the courtroom.

His father Phil Treacy, who is married to Kieran Keane's sister, was followed every day by two heavily armed members of the Emergency Response Unit as he delivered bread and apple tarts to more than 40 different shops in the city and is still under 24-hour protection.