A MISSING couple made a desperate phone call pleading for help the day they disappeared.
Willie Maughan (34) and his girlfriend Anna Varslavane (21) went missing almost seven weeks ago, and it's feared they have been murdered.
The Herald can reveal that Ms Varslavane said "help, help, help" in a call to Mr Maughan's family on the afternoon of April 14.
His parents, Joseph and Helen, have previously spoken of how they "feared the worst" and suspect their son has been targeted by a crime mob because he "knew too much" about a gangland murder.
The contents of the phone call - revealed for the first time today - fuel fears that the couple met a terrible end and their bodies were disposed of by the drugs gang operating in the north east.
Members of the same gang are the chief suspects in the murder of Benny Whitehouse (35) in Balbriggan last year.
The couple were last seen alive between 2pm and 3pm on that Tuesday afternoon in April in the Gormanston area of Co Meath.
Ms Varslavane phoned Mrs Maughan at 2.57pm.
At the time, Mrs Maughan was driving past Dublin Airport on her way to Gormanston to collect the couple and take them to the family home in Tallaght.
One of her sons answered the phone and said he heard Ms Varslavane yelling "help, help, help" and "the sound of choking".
Other voices were audible in the background before the phone went dead after several seconds.
Ten minutes later, there was no sign of the couple when Maughan family members arrived at the spot where he had arranged an hour earlier to be picked up.
A source close to the gang has claimed that the leader's elderly mother helped to restrain Ms Varslavane while her son and his cronies attacked Mr Maughan in a yard.
The same source has claimed that Ms Varslavane was beaten over the head with a hammer while she tried to phone for help.
Last week's Crimecall programme re-enacted the last known movements of the couple and showed CCTV footage of them together in a bid to jog people's memories.
Investigating gardai, along with Mr Maughan's parents, appealed for information on their whereabouts.
Gardai are understood to have received intelligence that the couple were murdered by up to five members of a drug gang that operates in Co Meath.
It is understood the drug boss and his sidekicks attacked the couple when they realised they were about to leave Gormanston to move back to Tallaght and may not have intended murdering them.
Mr Maughan had told his mother that he did not want the gang leader to know they were preparing to leave.
When she arrived to collect them at around 3.10pm she was first told they had gone walking towards the nearby shops in Stamullen.
When Mrs Maughan could not find them there, she returned to be told that the couple had gone to Spain.
Gardai have Ms Varslavane's passport and are satisfied the pair have not left the country.
Sources say detectives are conducting a double murder investigation in "all but name".
Specialist garda teams backed up by a helicopter have searched local quarries and farm land without success.
In the past week, the Maughan family have received information which may help gardai recover the couple's bodies.
"We know they are both gone and just want them brought back so we can give them a Christian funeral," said Mr Maughan's distraught father.
"That's why we're appealing to anyone with a conscience to come to us or the gardai with any information.
"I believe that a certain group of people in Gormanston know what happened to William and Anna.
"My son knew something he shouldn't have known and that is why they were taken away."
Anyone with information is asked to contact Ashbourne Garda Station 01 8010600 or the Missing Persons Helpline on 1890 4425852.
A DANGEROUS mob who are suspected of being at the centre of the disturbing disappearance of a 38-year-old man and his 21-year-old girlfriend are now under "severe pressure" from one of the country's worst gangland serial killers.