THE Garda investigation into the murder of Veronica Guerin has revealed that the previous time she was shot was an unsuccessful murder attempt, not just a warning.
The gunman was a heroin addict, suffering from AIDS, who lived in north inner Dublin. He was hired to kill Ms Guerin at her home in north Co Dublin on January 30th, 1995 - more than a year before the journalist was murdered.
He called to Ms Guerin's home and when she answered the door he pushed her to the floor, pointed a handgun at her head and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed and the gunman moved it away from her head and shook it vigorously. This apparently cleared the gun and a bullet was discharged, hitting Ms Guerin in the upper leg.
Ms Guerin began screaming and this, together with the sound of the shot, apparently frightened the gunman and he ran off. Gardai found the gun in a hedge nearby.
At the time it was believed Ms Guerin was shot in the leg as a warning to stop her from writing about the activities of a north inner city criminal referred to as "The Monk". She had written a story a week earlier about this man's tax affairs, saying he had taken advantage of a recent Government tax amnesty.
After she recovered from the attack, Ms Guerin confronted "The Monk", who denied involvement in the murder attempt. It emerged later that the first attempt on her life resulted from articles she wrote about the convoluted personal life of the murdered Dublin criminal, Martin Cahill, who was shot dead by the IRA in August 1994.
Members of Cahill's gang approached a Dublin criminal and fraudster, who was known to be Ms Guerin's main contact with the Dublin criminal community. The Cahill gang threatened this man and he agreed to have Ms Guerin killed. He hired the services of the north city heroin addict, who was prepared to kill people on "contract" for a sum thought to be only a few thousand pounds.
Despite the fact that the gunman botched the job, the shooting satisfied Cahill's associates who did not seek another attempt on her life.
The plot which eventually led to her assassination on June 26th last year stemmed from her writing on the activities of a major Dublin criminal, who was making millions of pounds from cannabis smuggling and who is now in custody abroad.
When Ms Guerin threatened to expose his criminal operations, he also turned to the underworld contact who had organised the first shooting - a man still in regular contact with Ms Guerin and whom she appeared to have trusted to some degree.
He learned, apparently from a chance remark by her, that she was due to appear in Naas District Court on a traffic offence. He told the drug dealer who set in train the operation which led to her assassination.