A middle-aged man who was an associate of a suspected armed robber embroiled in a bloody gangland feud has been shot dead.
The 55 year old, said to be friends with Gerry Hutch, known in crime circles as The Monk, was gunned down in a car outside his home in Ratoath, Co Meath.
Gardai said the shooting occurred in The OId Mill housing estate at about 7.45pm.
The victim’s body remained at the scene with protective sheets thrown over the vehicle ahead of forensic examinations.
It is understood he had been heavily involved in the black market cigarette trade and smuggling and had made a multimillion euro settlement with the Criminal Assets Bureau.
The association with Hutch immediately led to speculation that the shooting was linked to a bloody underworld feud which has already claimed at least four lives.
The dispute escalated early last month when David Byrne, an associate of the Costa del Sol-based Kinahan family was murdered in a Dublin hotel during a boxing weigh-in.
The killing was linked to a feud between his criminal outfit and other Dublin-based underworld figures and retaliation for the murder of 34-year-old Gary Hutch at the Angel de Miraflores apartment complex near Marbella in September last year.
Byrne’s murder was subsequently avenged within days when Eddie Hutch, taxi driver and brother of Gerry Hutch, was shot dead in his home in Dublin’s north inner city.
It sparked a rapid security reaction with armed patrols springing up in a some disadvantaged areas of the inner city.
In the following weeks there were high profile raids on homes of the Byrne family and their associates, solicitors and accountants and businesses linked to them.
The Garda press office issued an appeal for witnesses to the latest murder.
Detectives urged anyone who was in and around The Old Mill housing estate or the Fairyhouse Road in Ratoath this evening to come forward. They also appealed for anyone who may have seen anything unusual or suspicious to contact them.
Thomas Byrne, recently elected Fianna Fail TD for Meath, said he was “absolutely shocked by the shooting in a quiet neighbourhood”.
Regina Doherty, Fine Gael TD, said she was “beyond shocked” at the incident.
It is more than 10 years since the last gangland style gun attack in Ratoath, a commuter town less than an hour from Dublin.
In 2003 a man was shot as he arrived home in the Fox Lodge area of the town with his wife.
Gardai said the scene of the Ratoath murder had been preserved for a forensic examination by officers from the technical bureau on Thursday.
Dr Michael Curtis from the State Pathologist’s Office was called to the scene and inspected the victim’s remains, which are expected to be removed for a post-mortem examination at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.