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Hitman targets Ratt love rival as ex is held in home at gunpoint

DETECTIVES were today guarding gangster King Ratt's ex-lover Natasha McEnroe after a hit squad tried to kill her new boyfriend.

Ms McEnroe was held at gunpoint and her partner jumped from an upstairs window to escape assassins.

Gardai were today keeping an eye on her 24-year-old boyfriend who has moved back into the Ranelagh home he shares with the mum-of-one (26).

Detectives have advised the couple of an ongoing threat from King Ratt associates to the man's life.

"There are serious concerns for the safety of her new boyfriend and she is obviously at risk herself," a source told the Herald today.

Officers believe the associates of gangster Brian 'King Ratt' Rattigan have hired a Ballyfermot hitman -- responsible for at least five unsolved gangland murders -- to target Ms McEnroe's new boyfriend.

"Natasha McEnroe was lucky not to have been harmed on the last occasion," the source added.

Ms McEnroe, who has an eight-year-old daughter with Rattigan, split with the gangster last November. In a visit at Portlaoise Prison, she told King Ratt that she was ending their long-term relationship because she had found a new man.

She told him she wanted to move on and have more children as her "biological clock is ticking".

Associates of Rattigan -- outside prison -- are believed to have arranged the hit attempt in early January as a favour to their boss.

Despite the attempt on his life the 24-year-old man -- who is not involved in crime -- returned to live with Ms McEnroe at her home in Swan Grove, Ranelagh, on February 11 last.

Swan Grove was previously the site of major garda operations in the 1990s, when The General, Martin Cahill, lived on the street.

The hitman said to be hired by Rattigan's associates is a career criminal and gunman. He is the suspected trigger man for the 2008 murder of John Berney in Newcastle, west Dublin.

Berney was shot dead by the Ballyfermot man over a dispute involving a woman. The criminal became enraged when he witnessed Berney insult a woman he knew. Gardai believe he broke into Berney's home, and shot him in cold blood.

The Ballyfermot man is also the main suspect in the 2007 gangland killing of Seanie McMahon, who was shot dead as he lay in his bed at home in Tallaght. He has also been implicated in the 2007 murders of Brian Downes and Eddie Ward, and another recent Dublin killing, details of which cannot be reported for legal reasons.

The man is Dublin's best known 'gun for hire', according to a source. "He is willing and able to kill anyone for the right price. He will never pass up a contract," the source added.

The criminal's most serious previous conviction was for carrying out a string of syringe robberies in the 1990s.

He accepted the contract placed by Rattigan's associates on the life of the 24-year-old man, who began dating Ms McEnroe after she split with Rattigan.

In the January incident the Ballyfermot man and an accomplice broke into the couple's house. The man escaped out the window in his boxer shorts when the gunmen arrived.

During the incident, Ms McEnroe was herself held at gunpoint.

Stabbed

Ms McEnroe and her boyfriend refused to make a statement to gardai about the murder attempt. On February 11, gardai were informed that the young man had returned to the house where he narrowly avoided death.

The property was previously occupied by a deceased relative of Ms McEnroe, who is herself originally from Cooley Road in Drimnagh -- King Ratt's home area.

Rattigan is currently serving life for the murder of Declan Gavin, who he stabbed to death in Drimnagh in 2001.

Gardai are extremely surprised that Ms McEnroe's new boyfriend has not remained in hiding for his own safety and have visited the couple at the house in Ranelagh to give them security advice. "We thought he might leave the country. It is a very dangerous situation for him," said a source.

hnews@herald.ie