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Banged up Cornelius Price 'gopher' jailed for machine gun possession was arrested over double murder of missing couple

Gang boss Price (39) who is on bail in the UK on kidnapping charges has been making late night phone calls and using social media to taunt his enemies in Dublin in recent weeks.

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Stephen Gibbons

Stephen Gibbons

Stephen Gibbons

A 57-year-old “stooge” in the Cornelius Price organised crime gang jailed for seven years today for possessing a 76-year-old machine gun was previously questioned about the double murder of a tragic couple whose bodies have never been found.

Price’s associate Stephen ‘Gibby’ Gibbons was given a seven-year prison sentence today in Trim Circuit Court.

The development comes as it can be revealed that notorious criminal Price (39) who is on bail in the UK on kidnapping charges has been making late night phone calls and using social media to taunt his enemies in Dublin in recent weeks.

“Despite the serious charges he is facing in the UK which means he can’t leave England and has to wear an electronic tag, he is still trying to shove his weight around by making threats, ringing people up at all hours off his head on drink or God knows what.

“While Price is happy to do that it seems that he has no sympathy for his associate who is facing a significant jail sentence and this individual has been left to fend for himself in prison,” a source revealed.

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Cornelius Price

Cornelius Price

Cornelius Price

In imposing the seven year term today on Price’s associate Stephen ‘Gibby’ Gibbons, Judge Martina Baxter said an aggravating factor in the offence was the association of such a firearm with organised criminality.

‘Gibby’ of Rockleigh House, Richardstown, Gormanston, Co Meath appeared before Trim Circuit Court where Detective garda Padraig O'Rourke of Laytown Garda Station told prosecuting counsel Carl Hanahoe BL that the sub machine gun was in “fair condition.”

Although there were two rounds jammed in the barrel, the bullets could be removed and 'it would be capable of fully automatic fire'.

The weapon was in a black sack found in the ditch on a lane leading to Price’s compound at Rockleigh House where Gibbons lived on January 15 last year.

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Willie Maughan and his Latvian girlfriend Ana Varslavane were reported missing on April 14, 2015 in Gormanston, Co Meath.

Willie Maughan and his Latvian girlfriend Ana Varslavane were reported missing on April 14, 2015 in Gormanston, Co Meath.

Willie Maughan and his Latvian girlfriend Ana Varslavane were reported missing on April 14, 2015 in Gormanston, Co Meath.

“A number of hairs were found on the gun and DNA from one of the hairs matched that of Mr Gibbons,” said the detective

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The court heard that Gibbons had 31 previous convictions, 29 of which were in the UK.

Gibbons had received a one month suspended sentence at Blanchardstown District Court last year for trying to smuggle a mobile phone into Wheatfield prison in 2017.

Replying to defence barrister Garnet Orange SC the detective said that Gibbons who had come to Ireland from Rochdale 15 years ago had been living in a compound at Rockleigh House which was owned by Cornelius Price who is the nephew of Gibbon's former wife.

The barrister told Judge Martina Baxter that his client's elderly mother still lived in Rochdale and Gibbons hoped to go back to look after her at the end on his sentence here.

It can be revealed that armed gardai were active in the area at the time because they had received information that the torso of slain Drogheda teenager Keane Mulready Woods was to be delivered to Price's compound.

However the dismembered body parts were not there and instead officers found a 9mm Makarov PM-63 RAK sub machine gun which dates from 1945 and 12 rounds of 9mm Makarov ammunition.

Last week after a four day trial at Trim Circuit Court, Gibbons was cleared on the ammunition charges but convicted of possessing the gun.

He has been in custody since his arrest on April 28 last year by gardai investigating the gun and bullets seizure as well as the murders of Willie Maughan, and his pregnant girlfriend Ana Varslavane at the property in Gormanston, Co Meath, on April 14, 2015.

Gardai suspect that Gibbons was present when the tragic couple were murdered but he is not suspected of being an active participant in it.

He was the first of five people to be arrested up until January of this year in the long running probe into the double murder of the tragic couple which is being investigated by Ashbourne gardai.

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Teen victim Keane Mulready-Woods

Teen victim Keane Mulready-Woods

Teen victim Keane Mulready-Woods

Among the five are two women with close links to gang boss Cornelius Price.

“Gibbons was essentially a gopher for Corenlius Price and more serious players in that organisation.

“The likes of Price would order him around to do miniscule jobs for him in the compound and he would often get a good beating if his work wasn’t up to scratch,” the source added.

Gibbons conviction for attempting to smuggle an illegal phone into Wheatfield Prison in May, 2017, related to an attempt to get the mobile into Price who was serving a sentence in the jail at the time.

“Gibbons can be fairly described as a down-and-out who was almost used as a modern day slave,” the source explained.

Willie Maughan (34) and his Latvian girlfriend, Ana Varslavane, (21) are believed to have been abducted and murdered by the gang after they went missing on April 14, 2015, in Gormanston, Co Meath.

The pair were planning on moving back to his family home in Tallaght on the day they went missing and are understood to have been brutally murdered because they had key information about the gang’s activities including another murder.

No trace of their bodies has ever been found but they are believed to have been burnt after their gruesome murder.

In April, 2017, gardai failed to find any evidence of the tragic slain couple when they carried out a detailed dig near Monasterboice, Co Louth.

Days before this dig, they raided Price’s compound as part of the double murder probe.

It previously emerged that gang boss Price taunted and laughed at gardai as they searched for the missing couple near his compound in Co Meath in the summer of 2015.

In March, Price, who is part of the Maguire faction in the deadly Drogheda feud, was released on bail in the UK where he is awaiting trial for his part in a kidnapping plot.

The trial is expected to last between eight to nine weeks and is due to start on December 6, the day of Price’s 40th birthday.

Price is one of six people who have been charged in England over a plot to kidnap two men.

Another man linked to the Maguire faction, Mark Kavanagh (32), who is also facing charges over the kidnap plot, was previously granted bail in January.

Like Price, Kavanagh’s bail conditions stipulate that he cannot leave the UK.

Both men had been arrested last July during a major investigation by the West Midlands Organised Crime Unit.

Price is charged with two counts of conspiring to falsely imprison Muhammed and Shah Ali last July, as well as two counts of conspiring to blackmail both men on the same dates.

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