Gardaí investigating the murder of a man in Co Cork are examining the possibility he was threatened by dissident republicans seeking to extort money from him over his suspected drug-dealing activities.
Darren Falsey (36), who was originally from Waterfall on the southwestern outskirts of Cork city, was shot dead when he answered the door at his rented house at Ashbourne Court in Carrigaline some time between 2pm and 2.45pm on Wednesday.
Mr Falsey was discovered lying in the hallway by his partner, Lorraine Conroy, when she returned home with her son Dylan (8) at 2.45pm. She alerted emergency services but Mr Falsey was pronounced dead at the scene.
The inquiry into his killing was upgraded to a murder investigation yesterday after Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster completed a postmortem at Cork University Hospital.
Gardaí have declined to reveal the results of the postmortem but it is understood Mr Falsey was shot twice in the upper body and once in the head at close range with a 9mm handgun.
Shell casings recovered from the scene have been sent to the ballistics section of the Garda Technical Bureau to see whether the gun was used in any other crime.
Gardaí are puzzled that nobody in the Ashbourne Court or Ferney Road area reported hearing shots yesterday. They have not ruled out the possibility that the gunman may have used a silencer.
Mr Falsey was known to gardaí, who suspected him of being a significant figure on the Cork drugs scene over the past decade. Detectives have been speaking to associates in a bid to see if he had told them of any threats to his life.
Gardaí have established that he had received a number of threats earlier this year and, while they cannot discount the possibility that the threats may have been made by other drug dealers over unpaid debts, they are also looking at a possible paramilitary link.
Gardaí believe the Real IRA in Cork is using a campaign purporting to protect working-class communities from drug dealing as a front to extort money from drug dealers and are investigating whether they were behind the threats to Mr Falsey.
Last year the Real IRA admitted responsibility for the shooting dead of convicted drug dealer Gerard Staunton at Elm Close in Wilton in January 2010. Last year it also admitted responsibility for killing convicted drug dealer Kieran Flynn in June 2001.
Gardaí are looking closely at the possibility of a Real IRA link because seven years ago, a Real IRA active service unit was apprehended as it attempted to petrol-bomb the home of a relative of Mr Falsey who was suspected of drug dealing.
Gardaí believe the foiled arson attack on the man’s home in the Little Island area stemmed from the man’s failure to pay protection money to the Real IRA. Four men were jailed.
More recently, another relative of Mr Falsey, who is currently serving seven years for drugs offences, was also threatened by the Real IRA who demanded money from him.
Gardaí have established that Mr Falsey visited the jailed relative in Cork Prison on Wednesday morning, just hours before he was shot.
It is expected they will speak to the prisoner about whether he knew of any threats to Mr Falsey.
Gardaí have begun examining CCTV footage from commercial premises in Carrigaline to try to identify any possible suspects. They have also begun door-to-door inquiries in the Ashbourne Court and Ferney Road areas.
Supt John Gilligan of the Garda Press Office has appealed for anyone who saw anything unusual in the area to contact gardaí in confidence at Togher Garda station on 021-494 7120.