herald

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Feud probe as 3 women held over shotgun find

A shotgun similar to the one found by gardai
A shotgun similar to the one found by gardai

Gardai are trying to establish whether three women arrested in possession of a loaded gun earlier this week were on their way to carry out a feud-related shooting.

The women were last night being questioned at Longford Garda Station following an operation targeting ongoing feud violence in the midlands.

A fully-loaded double-barrel shotgun was seized, as well as a canister of petrol, shortly before midnight on Monday near Longford town.

The three women - a 47-year-old, a 41-year-old and another woman in her 20s - were arrested after they were seen acting suspiciously, sources say.

When local armed officers attempted to stop the vehicle they were travelling in, a black plastic bag was thrown from the car. The bag containing the firearm was later recovered.

Feuding

A source told the Herald that the arrests are linked to the ongoing feuding in Longford involving several different families. Gardai are now investigating if the women were on their way to carry out a shooting at the time of their arrest.

"There are several feuds ongoing and these arrests are connected to that," the source said. "A fully-loaded shotgun along with a canister of petrol were found, so gardai believe they were on their way to a job when they were intercepted."

It is understood that a specific target in the case has not yet been identified. The operation has been described as "significant" and brings to 24 the number of people who have been arrested by gardai investigating various different feuds across the county.

On Sunday night, in the Edgeworthstown area, a man was arrested after being found in possession of accelerant, a balaclava and a large knife.

Investigations into that incident are ongoing.

Last week, a viable pipe bomb was found in the Longford area while, separately, a property was also targeted.

On Monday of last week, a house in the area was shot up - no one was injured in the incident which happened shortly after midnight.

A number of spent cartridges were found at the scene and at least two shots were fired. Two men were later arrested as part of that garda investigation.

Earlier this year, the Armed Support Unit (ASU) was deployed to the county in an effort to prevent an escalation in feud-related violence.

Gardai in Longford are investigating more than 50 violent incidents, including shootings, arson attacks and assaults.

The feuding involves up to six Traveller families and has been ongoing over the last number of months.

At the time, sources said that the specialist units would carry out random checkpoints and patrols as part of an overall policing plan.

"This involves between five and six families disputing with one another, as well as internal feuding," a source said.

Hatchet

"In some cases, it is a small number of individuals from the one family involved, in other cases, larger groups."

In June, shots were fired at an occupied house at Clonbalt Wood in the town, with a man in his 40s narrowly avoiding injury. The previous night, two houses were burnt out in the Corboy area of Edgeworthstown. One was a vacant property while the second was unoccupied at the time.

Gardai are continuing their investigations into these crimes.

In a separate incident in April, a number of people were alleged to have been targeted in a road traffic collision outside a supermarket. The matter is currently before the courts and is believed to be linked to the feud.

Other extreme measures have been taken to prevent any further violence - including in January when a graveyard was searched for weapons and bombs ahead of a funeral.

More than 50 gardai were involved in the operation ahead of the funeral of Maureen Stokes (93) at St Mel's Cathedral in Longford.

Days earlier, at a removal in Mervue, Galway, three men were injured following a shooting, an assault with a hatchet and a suspected acid attack.

A man in his 30s was shot in the leg, while a second man in his late teens received a stab wound to the back.

A third man received minor injuries in an assault on Walter Macken Road. Gardai suspect a corrosive substance was used.

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