herald

Sunday 26 January 2020

Mob boss Price back on home turf after rivals' threats to kill female relative

  • Thug holed up in fortified compound on return from UK
  • Price pal Maguire on mend as gardai fear feud escalation
Cornelius Price
Cornelius Price

Mob boss Cornelius Price is back in Ireland after one of his gangland rivals threatened to murder a close female relative of his.

The feared thug (38) has been holed up in his compound in Gormanston, Co Meath, since last Sunday after receiving information that there were plans to shoot the woman.

Price had been based between Manchester and Birmingham since the summer after he was released from Wheatfield Prison, where he served a three-year sentence for reckless endangerment of a garda.

To avoid garda attention, Price travelled home from Belfast via Scotland last weekend and officers became aware that he was back only two days after his return.

"He is back to protect his family - he became aware of the grave threat against this woman who he is very close to and he has vowed to make sure that she is safe," a source told the Herald last night.

"He is staying very near her at his compound and her safety is his number one priority."

Nicknamed 'Nelly Boy', Price is considered one of the most dangerous gangsters in the country and his return has caused a headache for officers trying to control the Drogheda feud.

He is a key ally of paralysed criminal Owen Maguire, who leads one of the warring factions in the Co Louth town.

A video of a defiant Maguire doing pull-ups at his home was recently circulated on social media and featured the muscular gangster winking at the camera as he carried out his exercise routine.

"Maguire will be delighted that Price is back - his presence will give that gang an extra edge in the Drogheda feud," the source added.

"Gardai have had great success against the anti-Maguire faction in terms of drugs and firearms seizures in recent months and, even though they won't admit it, this gang will be very concerned that Price is back in the country."

Suffering

The feud escalated on June 20 when the leader of the rival faction was the target of an attempted murder.

The main line of inquiry into the attack on the 24-year-old mobster is that it was carried out by associates of Price.

The victim walked out of hospital less than three hours after suffering superficial wounds to his chin and shoulder.

The target's associates have since been circulating hateful social media content about Price's pal Maguire, who was left with life-changing injuries after being shot by the mob in July last year.

Apart from the warfare in Drogheda, Price is involved in several other gangland feuds - one of the most serious is his dispute with notorious north city criminal Robbie Lawlor, who sparked a massive garda alert when he was released from jail on Monday. Lawlor was targeted by associates of Price while on remand in jail and in October last year he was stabbed in Cork Prison after getting in a row with Price.

Sources say Lawlor, whose associates are linked to a string of gangland gun murders, has "vowed to take revenge" on Price and his mob.

They added that armed officers have been monitoring Price's Co Meath compound in recent days but there have been no incidents yet.

Price was released from jail in May, but while serving his sentence he was involved in a number of savage rows and feuds which led him to be transferred to different jails and isolation units.

He was suspected of ordering dozens of attacks against his enemies and perceived rivals, including an incident where he is alleged to have forced a Brazilian inmate to slice up a rival in a botched attack.

Before being released, Price was officially warned by gardai of an active threat against his life and the gang boss has spent most of the past seven months in England.

Ahead of Price's release, gardai carried out a number of search operations targeting his associates.

On May 3, heavily armed officers seized a handgun, shotgun, extendable baton and several rounds of ammunition in Coolock, just days after a major search operation for firearms in a field close to the fortified home of the gang boss in Gormanston.

Price's mob is suspected of involvement in three gangland murders and, while not a suspect himself for any of the three murders, his associates are the chief suspects in the murder of Benny Whitehouse, a 36-year-old man who was shot dead in September 2014.

Members of the gang suspected of killing Whitehouse are also the chief suspects for the suspected murders of Tallaght man Willie Maughan (34) and his partner Anna Varslavane (21), who were last seen near Price's house in the Gormanston area on the afternoon of April 14, 2015.

Taunted

The Herald previously revealed that the gang boss taunted and laughed at gardai as they carried out searches for the missing couple in the summer of 2015.

His mob is also suspected of being behind a sickening incident in August 2016, when the grave of Mr Maughan's brother Michael was dug up at Bohernabreena Cemetery in Tallaght, but Price was in prison at the time.

The sinister incident came just a day after Michael's father Joe had appealed for information to help find Willie's remains.

Price has never been arrested in connection with the suspected double murder of the couple, who are believed to have been shot dead and their bodies burnt in a bonfire.

His compound in Gormanston has been the subject of major garda surveillance operations and has also been raided on a number of occasions.

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