THE woman gunned down in a gangland-style killing in the bedroom of her Tallaght home yesterday was the victim of mistaken identity, according to local sources.

Sixty-four-year-old Joan Casey, a daily communicant, was shot dead by two masked men who broke into her house shortly after 6am yesterday morning. Gardaí declined to speculate on the motive for the murder, but confirmed that there was no evidence of a robbery.

It is understood gardaí are confident that Mrs Casey was not the intended target. A eucharistic minister in the local St Dominic's Church, she and her family were highly respected in the community and her death has horrified neighbours in the quiet, residential area close to the centre of Tallaght village.

"There is no way that they were trying to kill her, " one local source said yesterday.

"She was very well liked." There were unconfirmed reports that gardaí were following a definite line of enquiry and were seeking an individual in the area to assist them with their investigation.

Local parish priest Father Laurence Collins said that Mrs Casey was "a faithful mass goer".

"She never missed a rosary and went to church on a daily basis. It's an awful, awful tragedy, " he said.

Shocked neighbours said she was a quiet woman, and speculated that it was a "case of mistaken identity".

"Maybe they got the wrong house, " said one neighbour.

"I've been living here 20 years and the street has always been very quiet.

There's never been any trouble and we're all totally shocked, " said Pat Parsons, who lives directly opposite the dead woman's house.

This is not the first tragedy to hit the family. Over 15 years ago, Mrs Casey's young son was tragically killed in a traffic accident on the nearby Tallaght dual carriageway.

Gardaí said that Mrs Casey's husband and brother were "in the vicinity of the house" at the time of the murder. There is no suggestion that they were the intended target of the gunmen.

The shooting is certain to increase pressure on the government to clamp down on gun-related killings.

Gardaí confirmed in January that the gangland murder rate was now slightly higher than it was in 1996 at the time of the killing of journalist Veronica Guerin, which prompted a massive government crackdown on organised crime.

A total of 17 people were killed in gangland murders last year, compared to 10 in 2002. Four people have died in gangland-style killings in Ireland so far this year.

Opposition parties have strongly criticised justice minister Michael McDowell in recent months for failing to tackle the spiralling rate of serious crime.