The chief suspect in the murder and dismemberment of 17-year-old Keane Mulready Woods was gunned down in Belfast on Saturday.
Said to be one of Ireland’s most feared underworld figures, father-of-three Robbie Lawlor, 35, from Coolock in Dublin, was shot dead at Etna Drive, a residential area in the Ardoyne.
He had been in hiding since the murder in January of Keane Mulready Woods, which shocked the nation due to the victim’s age and the brutality of his killing.
Social media was awash with videos purporting to show rival organised crime figures celebrating Mr Lawlor’s demise, while speculation was rampant that he had been in Belfast to collect a debt when he was killed.
PSNI Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said: “I do not believe that Robbie was in the Ardoyne yesterday by accident. I believe he had some reason to be there and key lines of enquiry for me at this stage are to establish why he was there and what his connection to the address is.”
Four men, aged between 17 and 33, were arrested on suspicion of murder and are being questioned in the Serious Crime Suite in Musgrave police station, Belfast.
One has since been released.
Two properties, one in west Belfast and one in Crumlin, were also searched as part of the murder inquiry, the PSNI said.
Det Supt Murphy appealed for anyone in possession of recording footage that could assist the inquiry to make it available.
“Anyone who has CCTV, dashcam or mobile phone footage recorded in the area of Etna Drive and Kingston Court is also asked to make it available to my investigation team,” he said.
Mr Lawlor was said to be infamous among the underworld, shocking even the most hardened criminals with the level of violence he was prepared to use. He was a suspect in a number of murders, and had amassed more than 100 convictions.
A video uploaded to social media showing Mr Lawlor being accosted by a group of men shortly after his release from custody in December, was thought to be one of the catalysts in the escalation in violence between feuding gangs in Dublin and Drogheda, leading to the murder of Mr Mulready Woods.
Mr Lawlor left prison in December after a charge of assaulting his ex-partner was dropped, while a jury found him not guilty of assaulting her new partner. He was cleared of shooting the dog of his ex-partner’s mother. Gardaí told him in January that there was a serious threat to his life.