The leader of one of Ireland's most prolific burglary gangs has been arrested during a garda surveillance operation while breaking into a pensioner's home.
The 52-year-old, originally from the Mayfield area of Cork, was arrested along with two associates after forcing their way into a house on Saturday evening.
Unbeknown to the burglars as they broke into the house in the Freemount area of Charleville, their every move was being watched by undercover gardai.
Members of the Armed Support Unit swooped on two men - the 53-year-old mob boss and an associate in his 60s - while they were inside the house.
A third man, in his 30s, who was acting as getaway driver, fled the scene but was arrested around 15km away after ramming a garda patrol car.
A garda spokesman said no injuries were sustained during the operation.
All three men are currently being held under organised crime legislation and can be questioned for up to seven days.
One of the men in custody has been described as the leader of a prolific Cork-based crime gang involved in burglaries and armed robberies. He is a top target under Operation Thor, an anti-burglary initiative launched in 2015 - but he has also been targeted over the past three decades.
Sources said the thug led a loyal mob of associates as well as some relatives involved in burglaries and raids on business, mainly in Munster.
The organised crime group are suspects in a €140,000 cash-in-transit robbery in Cork in 2012, as well as a raid on a bank a year earlier and an aggravated burglary at the home of a businessman.
The gang leader has served a number of significant jail terms, including a lengthy sentence for an armed robbery on a post office in which a gun was held to a worker's head.
He has previously been described in court as being the leader of a dangerous organised crime gang with access to an array of firearms.
The mob leader has around 70 previous convictions, including for armed robbery and burglary.
A source last night said: "It is a significant capture by gardai involving members in the Mallow District as well as the Armed Support Unit.
"It follows a large volume of work and intelligence which led to the three arrests," the source added.