A gang boss who is the leading player in the so-called anti-Maguire faction in the Drogheda feud is back in the country after months on the run, gardai believe.
Last night, detectives were urgently trying to find the 25-year-old thug whose mob is suspected of being behind the murder and dismemberment of Keane Mulready-Woods (17) last January.
A High Court bench warrant was issued for his arrest earlier this year when he absconded to Spain after being charged with an attack linked to the feud, which has claimed four lives.
"This individual is perhaps the main instigator of violence in the feud and gardai are very anxious to arrest him but do not know where he is hiding out," a senior source said last night.
"It is very possible he may be in Dublin, where he has hid before.
"The information that he is back is coming from the Owen Maguire faction, who are also looking for him as they want to execute him.
"The information is being treated as credible."
Gardai do not know how the violent criminal, who was closely linked to murdered Richie Carberry and Robbie Lawlor, got back into the country during the coronavirus lockdown, but it was "most likely" through the UK.
He fled with his younger brother to Spain following Mulready-Woods' murder, and the pair were then joined by their right-hand man, who has since returned to Ireland.
It is understood the thug's younger brother remains in custody in Spain after he assaulted a woman.
Sources said the lockdown has helped ease tensions in the feud, but the return of the gang boss could lead to an escalation of violence.
The dispute was triggered by the attempted murder of Owen Maguire in July 2018.
The 25-year-old is a mortal enemy of paralysed Maguire and is suspected of ordering the botched hit on him, which gardai believe was carried out by Lawlor, who was shot dead in Belfast early last month.
"The Drogheda feud may be calm at the moment in terms of incidents, but the return of this individual could change all that," the source warned.
"In the last few weeks, gardai have had great success in chipping away at both gangs.
"It's a constant battle. The strategy is to keep on top of them, carrying out raids even if it's only a couple of grand worth of drugs.
"It hurts these crews and leaves them out of pocket."
The 25-year-old gang boss survived two gun attacks last year, including one last June when he was shot in the chin in the Elmwood Close estate in Drogheda, leading to a number of revenge petrol bomb attacks.
He had been targeted weeks earlier by a gunman in the Donaghmede area of Dublin.