Christopher Zambra, 39, was shot six times in Drimnagh, south Dublin, in what detectives described as a “very professional assassination”.
Zambra, who was cleared of ordering the fatal shooting of John Carroll in June 2013, is associated with two of the city’s biggest crime bosses.
Detectives believe they will not take it “lying down” and fear revenge attacks. It is the eighth gangland murder so far this year.
Gardaí said Zambra was driving an Audi and was visiting a family member when he was shot repeatedly while inside the car on Cooley Road at around 3pm.
He managed to get out and was shot again, collapsing in the front garden of a house. The gunman fired a final shot into his face, which detectives said sent a “strong message” to his associates. In total he was shot at least six times.
Gardaí last night said Zambra had “many enemies” and it was too early to pinpoint definite suspects.
However, sources suggested he may have been targeted by so-called dissident republicans linked to murdered Real IRA boss Alan Ryan. Gardaí believe Ryan was shot dead in September 2012 on the orders of the two crime bosses Zambra was associated with.
While Ryan’s unit has been broken up since, with a number either being shot dead or injured, gardaí said a group of them are active.
But sources said a long list of people wanted Zambra dead. He has been suspected of ordering three to four murders over the years, including that of Carroll in February 2009.
Detectives said that because he was major drug trafficker he may also have rivals or other enemies. A considerable amount of sensitive information was given out in separate trials relating to Carroll’s murder which would have angered a range of drug dealers.
“Whoever did this, the boys he is linked with have plenty of hitters,” said one source. “This won’t go unnoticed with them. They won’t take it lying down.”
Gardaí recovered a handgun at the murder scene on Cooley Road, near the Grand Canal. It was taken away for forensic and ballistic evidence.
Gardaí said the fact that it was left at the scene suggests they won’t find any forensic evidence on it and that it hasn’t been used before.
A black Nissan Qashqai jeep — similar to the one seen leaving the scene — was found burned out a few minutes away, in a cul de sac off Sperrin Road. They are thought to have got into a getaway vehicle.
Zambra, a single man from nearby Galtymore Road, was considered an “elusive” figure by many detectives and was not often seen. He had been stopped a number of times recently driving in the Dolphins Barn/Cork Street and Rathmines areas of the city.
Located on the south side, he established close business connections many years ago with the two crime bosses on the north side of the city. Zambra operated separate to the two feuding gangs in the Crumlin-Drimnagh-Rialto area of south west Dublin.