Eamon Dunne: believed to have ordered 17 murders

Gardaí have identified at least a dozen suspects in the murder of Eamon 'the Don' Dunne, the most notorious figure in Irish gangland history, who was shot dead on Friday night.

The 34-year-old was shot eight times as he sat in a pub in Cabra, Dublin, at around 10pm. His 17-year-old daughter was with him and witnessed the attack, which was captured on CCTV. Dunne was aware his life was in danger and had received at least 10 warnings about his personal safety from gardaí over the last two years.

He is thought to have personally ordered 17 gangland murders since 2005 and has been the gardaí's number one target for several years.

Dunne was part of the gang that murdered Latvian mother Baiba Saulite in November 2006 and also had his boss, Martin 'Marlo' Hyland, killed the following month.

He then took over the Finglas-based drugs gang and ruthlessly expanded his empire across the capital since then, stepping on the toes of several major gangland players.

The fact he was prepared to murder his own gang associates because of suspicions they might have been plotting against him added to his reputation as a ruthless hothead who would shoot first and ask questions later.

It is not thought Friday's murder will lead to any retaliation because Dunne was so despised among fellow criminals and brought so much garda attention to the underworld with the number of murders he organised.

Senior gardaí are privately expressing relief about the murder as it will reduce tensions among criminals across Dublin who feared they might be singled out by the paranoid Dunne.

Dunne was due to face trial later this year for the attempted robbery of a cash-in-transit van in Celbridge, Co Kildare, in November 2007. As well as drug dealing and armed robberies, Dunne and his gang were involved in protection rackets and ran the doors of pubs and nightclubs across west Dublin.

A source said: "Usually when you have a serious gangland player shot dead it almost immediately becomes clear who was responsible. The problem with Dunne is that he was universally hated and literally anyone could have done it. People are making comparisons to the Simpsons episode 'Who Shot Mr Burns?' because there are so many suspects, including his own gang. It will probably take weeks before things become clear."

The main line of initial inquiry being pursued is that associates of Michael "Roly" Cronin and James Maloney, who were both shot dead in a double murder in January 2009, may have murdered Dunne in a revenge assassination. But detectives simply do not know at the moment.