A CLOSE relative of pub murder victim Paul Cullen handed over €20,000 to gangsters, but it was not enough to save his life.
THE cash payment was a last-ditch attempt to save Cullen, who had fallen into major debt with a Cabra-based drugs gang.
Gardai are now investigating if a right-hand man of slain crimelord Eamon Dunne ordered the hit on Cullen (26) after he failed to pay more towards the estimated €60,000 drugs debt he owed.
The bulky Cabra thug had been putting "major pressure" on Cullen in the lead-up to his execution in front of his father at the Cabra House pub on Sunday, sources have revealed.
The gangster – who was regularly seen by Eamon Dunne's side and attended boxing matches with him – was demanding a figure of up to €60,000 in cash from Cullen.
A senior source said: "He was really putting massive pressure on Cullen there is no doubt that he is centrally involved in this."
The mobster, who is aged in his late 20s, is a heavy cocaine user and is under threat from a number of other criminal outfits as well as the IRA.
Sources say that the man, who has a distinctive nickname, is "extremely paranoid" and has spent long periods abroad in recent times.
Despite being on the garda radar for years he has managed to escape any convictions for serious offences.
Gardai believe that he was heavily involved in a botched cash-in-transit robbery in November 2007 which led to six of his fellow gang members being handed hefty jail sentences.
Since Eamon Dunne's murder in April, 2010 – ironically carried out as 'The Don' sat drinking in a different Cabra pub – the gangster has continued to be involved in organised crime but in a "low profile kind of way" according to sources.
A source said: "He has been keeping his head down and focusing much of his attention on his native Cabra and Finglas areas and also spent time abroad for a while.
"This is a fella who spends a lot of his nights in hotels and tries to keep one step ahead of the gardai.
"One thing for sure is that he is definitely the most senior gangster operating in the Cabra area."
The gangster hates publicity but despite this he was a prominent mourner at Eamon Dunne's high profile gangland funeral.
Meanwhile, the investigation into Paul Cullen's murder is continuing today.
Gardai have increased armed patrols in the area over fears that some of Cullen's closest associates may take part in a revenge attack.
Gardai are appealing for information about a medium-sized, dark-coloured motorbike used as a getaway vehicle by the gunman and a second man.
They are also collecting CCTV footage from the pub and the surrounding area in a bid to establish an exact timeline for the murder which was "very well planned."
Cullen had previously been warned that his life was in danger and survived an assassination attempt last August.
A judge in 2008 sentenced him to six years' imprisonment, with 18 months suspended, for storing a large quantity of cannabis resin in his home.
During the course of the hearing, the judge was was told that Cullen had received a bullet in the post and was attacked by criminals because of a €5,000 cocaine debt that he owed to local drug dealers.