Forensic data including fibre, blood and DNA evidence underpinned the arrest of three men in Cork in connection with the killing of Mikolaj Wilk (35) in Cork last June.
Two men – a Pole and a Latvian – were released without charge after being questioned overnight at separate Garda stations in Cork.
The third man, a Polish national, was still being questioned but is also expected to be released without charge. None of the three are suspected of carrying out the actual killing.
However, they were questioned about providing logistical support to the men who carried out the brutal attack.
Gardaí last year raided a number of properties in Cork and seized several vehicles.
Forensic data obtained from those operations, coupled with CCTV security camera footage, underpinned the three arrests.
Mr Wilk was attacked with a machete at his Ballincollig home in front of his wife and children last June.
A masked gang broke into his house and subjected him to a savage attack. He later died from the horrific injuries he sustained.
The arrests are part of the Garda effort to identify those who may have assisted the killers who are believed to have fled overseas within 24 hours of the murder.
The three men were arrested in the Ballincollig and Togher areas on Tuesday morning.
A file will now be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The two criminals who masterminded the brutal murder of the Polish gardener father are now believed to be now living between Latvia and Lithuania in the Baltic States.
However, Gardaí do not yet have enough evidence to seek a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) over the killing of Mr Wilk which was so savage Gardaí who attended the scene later required intensive counselling.
The three arrests were the first in the Wilk murder probe.
Detectives believe a Latvian/Lithuanian gang, assisted by Irish based ‘fixers’, carried out the shocking murder of the father of two.
The Garda investigation has received critical assistance from Interpol, Europol and polices forces in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
A key element of the investigation is whether the Baltic States gang have links to the Russian mafia.
Detectives suspect the killer gang were caught on CCTV footage in the hours before the attack as they chatted by a car parked near a Cork business premises.
Last year, the inquest into the death of Mr Wilk was adjourned on the application of Gardaí as their murder investigation remains ongoing.
Cork Coroner Dr Philip Comyn adjourned the inquest after hearing evidence of the gruesome injuries suffered by Mr Wilk when he was subjected to a frenzied attack by a masked gang of between three and four men.
Mr Wilk was subjected to a prolonged assault at his home at Bridge House, Maglin outside Ballincollig at 3am on June 10 last.
A masked gang forced their way into the property and attacked Mr Wilk while his terrified wife and two children were also present.
Amongst the weapons believed to have been used to attack the Polish gardener was a machete.
Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest Mr Wilk suffered multiple injuries. She conducted a full post mortem examination on Mr Wilk at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on June 11 last.
“The cause of death was haemorrhage and shock due to multiple blows with a sharp weapon in association with a traumatic brain injury,” she said.
Det Inspector Vincent O’Sullivan said the Garda investigation was ongoing with several areas of inquiry still being dealt with.
Mr Wilk’s wife, Elzbieta, and his two children, have since returned to their native Poland. Mrs Wilk had also suffered serious injuries in the June 10 attack.
Last July, Gardaí conducted an exhaustive technical examination of a number of vehicles seized in raids across Cork as part of the hunt for the killers of Mr Wilk.
Detectives are focused on whether a Cork-based gang assisted the savage killing at the behest of an East European criminal organisation who may have held some personal grudge against Mr Wilk.
The gang, based in the Baltic states, are feared for their brutality.
One garda source said between eight and ten people may have been involved – several of whom are feared to have fled Ireland within 24 hours of Mr Wilk’s killing.
A total of seven properties were raided by Gardaí in the greater Cork area last summer as part of a co-ordinated operation.
Following on from these searches, a total of nine vehicles were seized for forensic examination.
Gardaí were specifically looking for any blood or DNA link to Mr Wilk as the brutality of his murder meant his killers left the property soaked in blood.
The seven properties searched by Gardaí include six houses and one industrial property.
Gardaí sources said they are making “steady but significant progress” in their investigation.
Gardaí acknowledged the killing was one of the most brutal ever witnessed in Cork.
Mrs Wilk underwent surgery for tendon damage in one of her hands after being cut with a machete as she tried to protect herself and her children. The young mother also suffered head and facial injuries. Her children were unharmed but left deeply traumatised.
A woman who was renting a room in the house was unhurt and was able to flee the property.
A short time later, a getaway car used by the gang was discovered burned out in the Waterfall area.
The sheer savagery of Mr Wilk’s murder has baffled detectives.
A key theory now being examined by Gardaí is whether Mr Wilk was targeted by a criminal gang with international links over some kind of personal grudge.
Gardaí are trying to clarify if Mr Wilk may unwittingly have offended a gang through his business operations in the gardening/horticultural area – or whether he may have borrowed money from the wrong people.
They are also investigating if the savage manner in which the Polish father of two was killed was intended as a grim warning to others.
Detectives are still trawling CCTV security camera footage from properties around Ballincollig though the rural nature of where Mr Wilk lived has meant there is no footage of the actual area itself.
Gardaí are also examining Mr Wilk’s phone records and business transactions for any clue as to who may have held a grudge against him.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Gurranabraher Gardaí on (021) 4946200.
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