This day last week, there was a sight that was as surreal as it was terrifying.
Two men, dressed as masked elite gardaí, each brandishing military assault weapons, were photographed entering the Regency Hotel in north Dublin.
Also captured, a few minutes later, was the extraordinary sight of two men, one dressed as a woman and both armed with a handgun, running from the scene.
A young man, fully made up, was caught on camera pulling off his blonde wig. Beside him was an older man, stocky in build, with a flat cap.
Both of their faces — thanks to the Sunday World photographer — were clearly visible.
Inside the Drumcondra hotel, amidst panic and terror among the adults and children present, lay the lifeless body of David Byrne, a well-known criminal from Crumlin, south Dublin.
He was murdered in suspected revenge for the shooting dead of Gary Hutch in Spain last September.
That was blamed on the Kinahan crime cartel, of which Byrne was a senior member.
His murder led, in turn, to the shooting dead of Eddie Hutch Snr — brother of Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch — in the north inner city on Monday night.
A week on from Byrne’s murder, and three days on from Hutch’s killing, gardaí are said to be making “significant progress”.
But a long road remains.
The main progress in the Byrne case has been with the young man disguised as a woman — thanks to that photograph.
Sources have told the Irish Examiner that they have a “couple of suspects in mind”.
Detectives are working through their leads to determine which suspect it is, but are fingering a friend of murdered Gary Hutch.
But the man with the cap has baffled officers.
“He’s not a regular guy that anybody knows,” said one source. “He was cocky enough not to be bothered who in the Kinahan gang recognised him, which suggests they would have no idea who he was.”
Gardaí suspect the man is Irish, possibly someone who has lived from an early age in Britain, or is second-generation Irish.
Officers believe both he and the young man are long gone, Britain being a likely destination.
Detectives have been investigating linkages and connections between members of the Hutches — including Gerry Hutch— and criminal organisations in Britain, including in Birmingham.
Senior officers are going through the established procedures seeking assistance from British police forces.
“It’s not like ringing them up on the phone, sending them the photo and asking them to check the guy out,” said one garda.
“You have to go through protocols, there’s a whole rigmarole, and you depend on them to investigate it and sometimes they don’t get too excited.”
But officers do believe they will identify them: “There’s no doubt we will get them, it’s a matter of time, but it could be a long haul finding them and getting them back [to Ireland].”
As regards the three police-clad AK47 squad (there was a third with the two photographed), gardaí say they have no idea.
Investigators have labelled them ‘tactical one, two, and three’. A source said: “We don’t know who they are. There are no IDs coming in, there’s no forensics on them, and there was nothing in the car.”
That was the silver grey van used in the getaway and found burned out nearby.
Investigators are happy that all of the gang members are Irish and, at least a number of them, Dubliners.
If investigators can identify the ‘couple’, that will open up lines of inquiry which may help them close in on the ‘tactical’ trio.
Sources stress it’s going to be “a long investigation”, involving the viewing of extensive CCTV, the taking and examining of statements, and investigating how the gang got a fob to open private apartment gates at the hotel to escape.
In the Eddie Hutch investigation, detectives are also drawing up lists of possible suspects for the four-man gang. Two of them, both armed, burst into his home on Poplar Row and shot him nine to ten times, half of them into his head.
What will assist investigators is that their getaway car, a silver BMW reg 06 G8965, was not burned out. It also contained a plastic bottle filled with petrol and a balaclava.
Gardaí are hoping that forensic and DNA analysis will provide them with crucial evidence, as well as public sightings of the vehicle.
“If we get any forensics from the car, the bottle or the balaclava, it could be critical,” said one garda.
Assistant Commissioner for Dublin Jack Nolan last night told Prime Time arrests could take days, weeks, or months, and said the Veronica Guerin murder team took up to four months before they made an arrest.
The most important thing, he said, was “to get it right”.
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