Prolific | 

Stolen Audi involved in dramatic gang chase and crash linked to over 70 burglaries

Gardaí believe different suspected gang members travelling in it at different times and with different false registration plates

The five men after they were arrested

Ken Foy and Robin Schiller

A stolen high-powered Audi SQ5 that crashed on Tuesday night after a garda chase has been linked to more than 70 burglaries on both sides of the Border since it arrived in the country early last month.

Up to 40 of the burglaries were in the Republic.

Gardaí believe the vehicle has been used on the country’s motorway network on most days since it arrived, with different suspected gang members travelling in it at different times and with different false registration plates being placed on it.

Five suspected members of one of the country’s most prolific burglary gangs remained in custody last night at three separate Co Kildare garda stations.

The Audi they were travelling in, which had been reported stolen, smashed into a roundabout at high speed and flipped over near Lidl on the Newbridge Road in Naas after the suspects were targeted following a massive surveillance operation.

All five were arrested at the scene, with three of them needing hospital treatment for their injuries, including the youngest, a 19-year-old, who suffered a broken arm.

They were all released back into garda custody yesterday morning, including the oldest suspect, aged 46, who suffered facial injuries in the crash.

He shares the same address in Newbridge, Co Kildare, as the arrested teenager.

The other three suspected gang members all have addresses in the Tallaght area of Dublin. They include two men, aged 23 and 21.

The 21-year-old, from the Ardmore area of Tallaght, has been centrally involved in organised burglaries since he was a teenager.

Despite his youth, he has regularly come to the attention of garda intelligence for involvement in burglaries in which high-powered Audis with false plates have been used across the country.

The crashed car was found overturned in Naas, Co Kildare

All arrested suspects have links to the gang that was led by burglary gang boss ‘Fat’ Andy Connors, who was shot dead in an unsolved murder in August 2014.

One high-profile crime he has been investigated for was a burglary in Co Tyrone that was categorised by the PSNI as an attempted murder.

Police in the North have taken an active interest in the activities of the gang, who have been terrorising communities since the Audi was stolen in London on March 3.

At one stage it was suspected the gang were using Belfast as a base to target Armagh, Newry and Lisburn, where there were more than a dozen burglaries in just a few days, leading to police issuing a photo of the vehicle and a public appeal for information.

Half of the premises targeted in that spree were Indian and Chinese businesses.

In the other raids, safes from business people were robbed and bleach was used to destroy evidence by the gang.

They were also suspected of using Dublin as a base and using the same Audi in more than two dozen burglaries in Derry and Tyrone.

However, the gang’s crime wave was not confined to Northern Ireland – they are the chief suspects in the robbery of a jewellery store in Cootehill, Co Cavan, which happened at 3am on Tuesday of last week.

They are also suspected of carrying out a number of house burglaries in Co Meath, including in the Summerhill area, while using the same stolen vehicle.

The gang are suspected of carrying out six burglaries in one day in rural Meath earlier this month.

They are further believed to have carried out a large number of break-ins in Dundalk, Co Louth.

The Audi is believed to have been used in a burglary in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, in which a charity shop was targeted, and another commercial burglary in Tullow, Co Carlow, in which safes were stolen. A pub in Gowran, Co Kilkenny, was also targeted.

During the Tullow incident, the gang spent 45 minutes in the business and then loaded the safes into their vehicle before escaping back to Dublin via Castledermot, Co Kildare.

They are suspected of being prolific in the midlands as well and of carrying out at least two residential burglaries in Portlaoise, Co Laois, which happened during daylight hours, as well as a spree of burglaries in the Kinnitty area of Co Offaly.

One of the injured burglary gang suspects

They are further believed to have used the same vehicle to target a bookie’s in Co Tipperary.

They had been chased by gardaí on a number of occasions, including during a recent incident near Blessington, Co Wicklow, and when they fled at speed on the motorway after being disturbed while carrying out a break-in in Portlaoise.

However, their luck finally ran out on Tuesday evening following a major operation led by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.

The suspected gang members were being monitored by specialist gardaí as their crime spree continued, which led to them being tracked to the Maynooth area shortly after 7pm.

This led to the high-speed chase, which also involved the garda helicopter.

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