| 7.5°C Belfast

Gangster Cornelius Price planning return to Ireland after murder of rival Robbie Lawlor on Belfast street

Close

Police search a nearby house last night

Police search a nearby house last night

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Forensic experts examine the area where Robbie Lawlor was shot

Forensic experts examine the area where Robbie Lawlor was shot

Robbie Lawlor

Robbie Lawlor

Police search a nearby house last night

Feared mobster Cornelius Price is planning to return to Ireland within days after the murder of his arch enemy Robbie Lawlor in Belfast at the weekend, it can be revealed.

Gardai are braced for the return of a "triumphant" Price who is said to be "delighted" that a video of him celebrating Lawlor's death went viral on YouTube.

In a video filmed on Saturday, the 38-year-old says: "Cheers to Robbie Lawlor, rest in peace. He's not even meant to rest in peace but fair play to you. There you go boy."

Price left Ireland after the murder of the grisly murder of Keane Mulready-Woods (17) in January.

The development comes as it emerged that a 42-year-old drugs trafficker, a former right-hand man of Lawlor's slain brother-in-law Richie Carberry, has now become the primary target for Price's gang.

The dealer was spotted drinking with Lawlor after the murder of Mulready-Woods.

Sources have revealed that a "war summit meeting" is due to take place at a property in the Rochdale area of England where Price fled to after Lawlor's suspected involvement in the murder of Mulready-Woods.

"Cornelius Price and his close associates in the Maguire faction in the Drogheda feud firmly believe that they have the upper hand in that dispute now that Lawlor is dead," a source said.

"They have celebrated Lawlor's murder and they are now turning their attention to who they can target next.

"Top of the list is the 42-year-old who has been left completely isolated now that both Lawlor and Carberry are dead.

"The Price gang would also love to get their hands on the two brothers who lead the anti-Maguire faction but these fellas fled to Spain almost two months ago and they are unlikely to get at them."

The Price gang have circulated an image on social media which shows three Smirnoff bottles symbolising their three rivals, all of whom have been shot dead since August. They are Lawlor, Carberry and the feud's first murder victim Keith Branigan who was gunned down at a Co Louth caravan park last year.

However, in the image posted two bottles can be seen covered in brown cloth. These represent the on-the-run Drogheda brothers and the gang do not plan to drink them until the brothers are murdered, sources say.

Despite being bitter enemies of Lawlor, Price and his gang are not suspects in his killing which happened in the front garden of a house in the Ardoyne area of Belfast on Saturday morning.

Sources say that one of the main lines of inquiry in the probe is whether the murder was carried out by a Belfast drug dealer Lawlor had previously threatened, and from whom he was due to collect cash on Saturday after calling to him last week.

Another theory being examined is whether a Coolock-based drugs gang organised the gun attack.

Yesterday, it was revealed that detectives are investigating whether key members of the ruthless McCarthy-Dundon mob set up hitman Lawlor to be murdered after travelling to Belfast with the gangster.

Two of the Limerick gang's close associates, including a juvenile, were among a trio still being quizzed by the PSNI last night as part of the murder investigation - they are aged 17, 30 and 33.

Also arrested by the PSNI on Sunday was the criminal son of a notorious murdered dissident republican at a property in Crumlin, Co Antrim. He was later released without charge.

The 27-year-old released man is currently on bail in relation to serious offences relating to a cross-border drugs-trafficking operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Lawlor was shot by a lone gunman in Etna Drive, Belfast, shortly after 11.30am on Saturday in the front garden of the property.

Belfast Telegraph