Lawlessness in County Limerick has plummeted to a new low with the murder of a 35-year-old businessman because, detectives believe, a member of his extended family helped put one of the city’s most notorious criminals behind bars. Irish police probing last week's muder of Roy Collins believe the order to kill him came from inside prison.

Wayne Dundon is serving seven years for threatening to kill Collins’ barman cousin Ryan Lee when he refused to let the gangster’s 14-year-old sister into a pub in Limerick in December 2004.

Lee gave evidence of the threat at Dundon’s trial when he was first sentenced to 10 years. It was later reduced to seven years on appeal.

Dundon is a member of two extended criminal families in Limerick at the center of a bloody feud that has claimed several lives. Dozens of thugs have been convicted for murder and other offenses linked to the feud.

Collins, who was due to be married later this year, was shot dead last Thursday as he repaired a machine at the Coin Castle amusement arcade which he owned next door to the family pub, the Steering Wheel. His murder stunned Limerick while its citizens were still grieving the murder of rugby hero Shane Geoghegan last November.

A 23-year-old man has been charged with Geoghegan’s killing. Neither Geoghegan nor Collins had any links with either of the mobster families.

But while Geoghegan’s murder is believed to have been a case of mistaken identity when a member of one of the feuding families was the intended victim, Collins was deliberately targeted.

His heartbroken father Steve said the family had “paid the ultimate price” for giving evidence that helped jail 30-year-old Dundon. Dundon’s trial heard that less than half an hour after he threatened Lee, a gunman wearing a motorcycle helmet walked into the pub and shot the barman in the right hip.

The assailant turned to walk out the door, but then walked back and callously discharged a second shot from close range into the left side of Lee’s groin. The barman was left sprawling on the floor in agony as customers hid in terror.

Dundon was arrested the following day and assaulted two detectives as they prepared to quiz him in a Garda (police) station.

While Dundon was held in custody awaiting trial for threatening to kill the barman, a threatening note was put into the letter box at the home of Ryan Lee’s girlfriend warning of further attacks.

The letter was addressed to Lee’s uncle, Stephen Collins. It read: “Steve, if you think it is easy, then think again. Look at all the people that’s dead. Look, if you want to call it quits, you know what to do. If not, we will attack your staff and business. It is up to you.”

No one has been charged in relation to the letter and no one has ever been charged with the shooting of Ryan Lee, as the gunman wore a helmet and could not be identified.

The threats were not idle warnings, as was underlined with the murder on Thursday last week of Stephen Collins’ son Roy.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Kevin Ludlow said the hardworking and loving father-of-two had no involvement in criminality, never gave evidence in court but was still targeted by “ruthless criminals.”  There was strong condemnation of the murder and other recent violence in Limerick by the city’s Catholic bishop, Donal Murray, at Collins’ funeral on Monday. He urged a halt to “this madness, this utter madness.”

Murray’s appeal was echoed by the Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, Bishop Trevor R. Williams, who said the community’s response to Collins’s murder showed that people would not “put up with the callous desecration of human life.”

The government was represented at the funeral by Minister for Defense and local Limerick East member of Parliament Willie O’Dea.

The priest who celebrated the funeral Mass, Father Sean Harmon, pleaded with the city’s men of violence to look deep into their hearts and see the great evil they were committing and the untold heartache and pain they brought to the families of their victims and to all the people of Limerick

The priest added, “Spare a thought too, for the fact that by your evil deeds you have besmirched the precious name of our ancient and beautiful city of Limerick.”

Three people in their twenties, two men and a woman, have been arrested and are being questioned about the murder.