Cornelius Price: The life, crimes and death of infamous gang boss
Price, who was directly linked to up to four murders in Ireland died in a Welsh hospital on Sunday
Deceased gangster Cornelius Price attempted to set himself up as a “mediator” in criminal disputes in England, as well as a “referee” in bare knuckle boxing contests after he fled Ireland.
Price, who was directly linked to up to four murders in Ireland, fled his compound in Gormanston, Co Meath, in the aftermath of the murder of Keane Mulready-Woods in January, 2020.
The plan hatched by the teenager’s murderer, Robbie Lawlor, was to deliver Mulready-Woods’ decapitated head to the compound where father-of-two Price lived.
But Price had left the country and the criminals assigned to carry out the task were spooked by garda attention in the immediate aftermath of the murder.
Sources say that after arriving in the English midlands – a place where he had strong links – Price “traded on his name and his infamy” and was able to rely on a crime support network in England.
“He set himself up as some type of gang boss who was above the level of everyone else. For those few months in 2020, he was trying to resolve disputes with other criminal organisations in the area, which is investigated by the West Mercia police force that covers three English counties,” a source said.
“It did not take long for him to pop up on intelligence bulletins there and what was clear was that his reputation was well known to the local criminals, who were in fear of him.”
This reputation was compounded when a video was posted on social media which showed Price celebrating the murder of his rival Lawlor in April, 2020, by toasting it with a glass of rum.
The criminal told the camera from his UK hideout: “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 added before drinking a shot.
Price was previously involved in an attack on Lawlor behind bars after offering him a ‘Judas’ handshake. Lawlor needed 29 stitches after suffering extensive injuries in the attack in Cork prison in October 2018.
The two criminals were in dispute about separate but linked feuds in Drogheda and north Dublin in which they were on opposing sides.
But as Price toasted the murder of Lawlor, a fatal shooting that he was suspected of being involved in, he was becoming a target for specialist police in the UK – but did not know how closely he was being watched.
Just four months later, police had Price and his gang – which included Limerick criminal Ger Dundon (37), who had changed his name to Darren McClean, and Drogheda feud gangster Mark Kavanagh (34) – in their sights.
Price was too ill to stand trial with his five alleged associates after he suffered a brain injury in October, 2021
Staffordshire police set up a major surveillance operation on Price and Dundon’s gang when they became aware of a £300,000 (€343,000) blackmail and kidnap plot against alleged rival criminals.
They were arrested in July of that year but only Dundon has been convicted in relation to the plot after a lengthy trial that concluded last month in London. All other suspects including Kavanagh have been cleared of all charges.
Price was too ill to stand trial with his five alleged associates after he suffered a brain injury in October, 2021. Price was diagnosed with limbic encephalitis, with little hope that he would ever recover. He was being treated in a Welsh hospital.
He died on Sunday after his condition worsened a number of days earlier. Some of his associates and family paid tribute to the criminal on social media in the days before his death.
Two months after he was hospitalised, when the kidnap trial was adjourned at London’s Wood Green Crown Court, his lawyer gave an update on his medical condition.
“He has been in the hospital for quite some time now,” said Jason Avis.
“He is still ventilated at the moment. In terms of his ongoing treatment and diagnosis, the consultant said that it is difficult to estimate when Price is likely to wake from his coma. It could be months or worst case scenario is it could be years.”
Price’s gang are suspected of abducting and murdering Willie Maughan (34) and his pregnant Latvian girlfriend, Ana Varslavane, (21) on April 14, 2015, near Price’s compound in Gormanston.
The pair were planning on moving out of the compound to go back to Maughan's family home in Tallaght on the day they went missing. It is understood they were brutally murdered because they had key information about the gang’s activities, including another murder. No trace of their bodies has ever been found.
Price’s gang are also the chief suspects for the unsolved murder of Benny Whitehouse. Price was previously arrested for this crime. Mr Whitehouse was shot dead at Clonard Street, Balbriggan, on September 25, 2014, in front of his partner.
From 2013 onwards, Cornelius Price was a regular feature of crime coverage for this media outlet as well as being a major target for gardaí. At times, covering his activities was both terrifying and bizarre.
In January, 2015, he tried to organise a botched murder attempt on himself in the Clondalkin area in a bid to get his bail conditions at the time changed so he could move back to his Co Meath compound, where he felt safest.
He was able to get back to the compound and that is where it is suspected he organised the murders of Maughan and his pregnant partner just months later.
Price taunted and laughed at gardaí as they searched for the missing couple near his compound in the summer of 2015.
“That was him all over – just a really evil bastard really,” a source who knew him said.
In April, 2017, gardaí failed to find any evidence of the slain couple when they carried out a dig near Monasterboice, Co Louth.
Days before the dig, they raided Price’s compound as part of the double murder probe.
His gang are suspects for an incident in August, 2016, when the grave of Maughan’s brother was dug up at at Bohernabreena Cemetery in Tallaght. Price was in jail at the time.
The incident took place just a day after Willie’s father Joe Maughan appealed for information to help find Willie's remains.
At the time, Price was serving a three-year jail sentence for reckless endangerment of a garda – his most serious criminal stretch.
While serving his sentence, he was involved in a number of rows and feuds which led him to be transferred to different jails and isolation units.
He was suspected of ordering dozens of attacks against his enemies and perceived rivals, including an incident where he is alleged to have forced a Brazilian inmate to slice up a rival Traveller in a botched attack.
Before being released in 2019, he was officially warned by gardaí of an active threat against his life and spent most of the seven months after his release in England. He arrived back in Ireland in December 2019, as the Drogheda feud was about to explode and make international headlines with the murder of Mulready-Woods.
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