herald

Friday 21 September 2018

Gang target survives botched hit despite being shot six times

Gardai at the scene of the shooting in Drogheda which targeted Owen Maguire, who was once a close associate of jailed gangster Cornelius Price
Gardai at the scene of the shooting in Drogheda which targeted Owen Maguire, who was once a close associate of jailed gangster Cornelius Price

A man who had links with one of Ireland's most dangerous gangs has survived being shot six times in a gangland attack.

Armed gardai were last night patrolling Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth, where Owen Maguire is being treated after being shot with a handgun at his halting site home in the town.

A senior source told the Herald that the attack was being treated as attempted murder and that Maguire was "extremely lucky" to be alive.

He was shot in the stomach and shoulder and also suffered injuries to both his legs and wrists.

It emerged last night that one of the six bullets had lodged in his spine, and sources said this might have "grave repercussions for his future health situation".

Maguire is well-known to gardai, but his most serious conviction brought a six-month suspended sentence for affray, an offence he committed near his home in Cement Road, Drogheda, in September 2015.

Drugs

Maguire's associates were the main targets of a high-profile operation by the Criminal Assets Bureau in five counties in April.

Willie Maughan and his partner Anna Varslavane
Willie Maughan and his partner Anna Varslavane

Searches took place in Dublin, Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan, and one man was arrested for allegedly being in possession of stolen property.

During the course of the early-morning raids, a number of items were seized as well as €27,800 in cash and £1,570 in sterling.

Among the items seized were two stolen caravans, one Mercedes car, a Rolex watch and a selection of lawnmowers and strimmers.

Illegal drugs were also seized, including cannabis herb and cocaine with a street value of €1,000.

"This garda operation put major pressure on this organised crime gang and the belief of investigators is that the raids are actually the root of this attempted murder," the senior source said last night.

"The reason for this belief is that it led to an increase in pressure and a real need for money for the mob who were targeted.

"Detectives are aware that pressure was being put on everyone down the drugs food chain in a major cash drive.

"The belief is that someone lower in the food chain simply got p***ed off and this action was taken against Maguire as a result of this."

Maguire's associates are the chief suspects for a savage knife attack on a 31-year-old convicted sex offender in Drogheda in March.

Gardai have made no arrests over the incident, in which the victim was lured into a car and stabbed multiple times by a three-man gang in a punishment attack.

Maguire was previously a close associate of jailed gangster Cornelius Price, who is serving time in Cork Prison, but it is understood the pair fell out in recent times.

Sources said Price is not considered a suspect in this attempted murder as he "has run out of cash".

Maguire and Price were previously charged but later cleared at Dublin Circuit Court of assault causing harm to Clifford Whitehouse and James Whitehouse at Bremore Castle, Balbriggan, in December 2013.

They were also charged with the production of an article, namely a box cutter, on the same day but were also not convicted of this offence.

Nine months after the attack on Clifford Whitehouse, his brother Benny was killed in Balbriggan - an unsolved crime that Price was arrested for, only to be later released without charge.

Benny Whitehouse, of Ringcommons Halting Site, Balbriggan, died after being shot in Clonard Street.

His partner was shot in the leg during the attack.

Gruesome

Maguire is not a suspect in that murder, but gardai believe that people known to him have key information about one of the most gruesome double killings in the history of the State.

That is the suspected murders of Tallaght man Willie Maughan (34) and his partner Anna Varslavane (21), who were last seen in the Gormanston area of Co Meath on the afternoon of April 14, 2015.

One theory being investigated is that the couple were murdered for trying to break links with the gang they had been associated with in the months before they disappeared.

Maguire is not suspected of involvement in that double murder, and nobody has been arrested or charged.

Associates of Maguire's are suspects for a sickening incident in August 2016, when the grave of Willie Maughan's brother was dug up at Bohernabreena Cemetery in Tallaght.

In February, three associates of the gang were arrested over a €220,000 cash seizure in the Netherlands.

All three have since been released from custody there, and are understood to be have returned to Ireland.

They are due before a Dutch court later this month.

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