| 15.4°C Dublin

Tears at family farewell to slain gangster Panda

THE mother and girlfriend of slain gang boss 'The Panda' wept last night at his removal mass.

More than 100 people turned out to mourn notorious criminal Michael 'Micka' Kelly, who was gunned down in broad daylight as he left his girlfriend Caoimhe's apartment in Clongriffin last week.

Silence surrounded St Benedict's church in Kilbarrack yesterday evening, as the 30-year-old's remains were brought inside.

There was a strong garda presence outside the church with officers on high alert given the gangster's serious criminal connections.

During a service that lasted fewer than 10 minutes, parish priest Fr David Lumsden spoke of the "horrific" effect the death had on Kelly's family.

"This has been a horrific time for you as a family. And we know even to this day that there was a little gap to when he died but it is still a great shock to the family."

At no point did the priest speak about the victim, or mention his criminal past. Following the service, he privately offered his condolences to Kelly's mother Ann and the rest of his family.

His distraught partner Caoimhe was visibly upset as she held her son -- the baby boy who Kelly had come home to see before he died in a hail of bullets.

Gardai maintained a strong presence outside the church to ensure the mass passed off peacefully.

The father-of-three's execution has been dubbed the most significant gangland killing since the shooting of Eamonn 'The Don' Dunne outside the Faussagh House pub in Cabra on April 23 last year.

Gardai were today expected to mount a much larger operation in anticipation that some of Kelly's criminal associates would attend. It has emerged that two gunmen used an AK47 assault rifle to shoot the gangsterat 1.15pm last Thursday afternoon.

Kelly -- who made a fortune from drug dealing -- is understood to have a major property portfolio which includes apartments in Dubai and Spain.

He had spent most of the last year living in Spain's Costa-Del-Crime but had returned home in recent weeks after his girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy, the thug's third child.

Gardai believe Kelly's murder was well planned and that his killers had very accurate information about his movements.

They suspect that a former bank worker and close associate of Kelly, known as 'Jewie', was with him when he was killed.

Officers were working on the theory that pals of drug dealer Anthony Foster -- murdered by the Panda's mob in 2008 -- enlisted the Real IRA to carry out yesterday's murder.

Less than an hour after he was shot dead and his body driven over, the home of a female associate of Foster was raided by armed detectives.

No arrests have yet been made.