KINAHAN cartel associate Eric Fowler may have been whacked by a local gang who owed him drugs money.

The Irish Sun on Sunday can reveal that gardai are probing the theory his killers struck first over fears Fowler would target them.

But detectives from Blanchardstown Garda station are also investigating if the Hutch gang was behind the killing over Fowler’s role in helping Estonian hitman Imre Arakas target James ‘Mago’ Gately in April 2017.

It’s believed father of two Fowler, 34, was to help another man provide a safe house for Arakas during his time in Ireland.

But their plans were foiled when Gardai swooped and arrested Arakas at Fowler’s property in Blakestown Cottages.

A third theory being probed is that Fowler — whose associate was caged for eight years for running a €450,000 grow house for the Kinahans — may have been targeted outside his home by former associates.

A source said: “A major theory is that he was owed money and his killers targeted him so they wouldn’t have to pay up. He may also have owed money so this points to a local feud.

“Gardai also can’t discount that this was the work of the Hutch gang because of the role he played in helping Arakas target James Gately.

“The less likely scenario is this was a case of internal housekeeping by the Kinahans — but if this was the case they could have got to him long before now.

“Fowler’s associate is also close to the Kinahan group so it’s unlikely they went after him because they have other targets in mind.”

Although Fowler was blasted in the chest by a hitman one week ago, his remains have yet to be returned to his family.

Gardai are also conducting house to house inquires along a 2km stretch of road between the shooting and the location of the gang’s getaway car in Clonee.

Officers are examining CCTV from the scene and the surrounding area — including nearby businesses — in a bid to track the VW Passat’s movements before and after the shooting.

Investigators held a conference yesterday to discuss the capital’s latest gangland shooting.

At the time of his killing, Fowler was not warned by Gardai of a threat to his life.

Officers believe he was blasted by a contract killer who hid in bushes for an hour beforehand.

A source added: “There will be a huge body of work around the CCTV and there will be hours of footage to examine.

“It’s like a maze in that part of Dublin but the hope is that some breakthrough can be made.”

Supt Liam Carolan has urged anyone with information on the murder to come forward.

The senior officer said: “There are a number of strands in the investigation. Organised crime is clearly a strong avenue but there could be multiple other reasons.

“We are putting in place a number of armed patrols over Christmas in the area and also high visibility policing.”

As Gardai continue to investigate the December 22 murder, Dublin’s Lord Mayor Nial Ring pleaded for an end to violence.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Sun, the capital’s First Citizen hit out at feuding gangs.

He said: “When is this madness going to end? Far too many lives have been lost already.

“People want to get on with their lives and the last thing the people of this city needed before Christmas is another murder.

“I’m concerned children could be caught in the crossfire of these feuding gangs and these people need to think about the consequences of their actions.

“We don’t want to see any more victims and people just want this to stop.”