Boxing trainer Pete Taylor was "within touching distance" of a gunman when he was shot, spun 180 degrees and fell to the floor where he lay unable to move due to the pain, he has told the trial of a man accused of murder and his attempted murder.
Mr Taylor told the Central Criminal Court on Tuesday morning that he felt one bullet "whizz" past his head as he ran towards the gunman who was standing in the doorway of the gym where Mr Taylor was taking an early morning fitness class.
He also revealed that he complained to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) after his runners and tracksuit bottoms, containing between €200 and €400, were removed from him at the scene and never returned.
Mr Taylor's partner Karen Brown described arriving at the gym moments after the shooting and almost crashing into a grey van that was leaving the scene. When she saw Mr Taylor lying on the floor of the gym with blood coming from his chest, she thought he was dying.
Gerard Cervi (34), from the East Wall area of Dublin 3 has pleaded not guilty to murdering Bobby Messett (50) at Mr Taylor's Bray Boxing Club, Bray Harbour, Bray, Co Wicklow during an early morning fitness session on June 5, 2018. Mr Cervi also denies the attempted murder of Mr Taylor and Ian Britton on the same occasion.
Mr Taylor told prosecution counsel Paul Murray SC that his daughter is an Olympic boxer and he is a well-known boxing coach and fitness trainer. He set up Bray Boxing Club in 1995 and moved the club to the gym on the seafront in 2005. On June 5, 2018 he was taking a class at 6.45am. He arrived at 6.40am, wrote the morning's session on the white board and when everyone arrived he started the session. He said he turned his back on the class to plug his phone into the sound system and "a loud bang went off". He thought it was an air compressor and when he turned around he heard a second bang and saw someone "straddled between the door frame with what looked like a gun. I thought he was someone playing a prank and then I noticed Bobby [Mr Messett] on the ground and everyone hitting the ground. The chap was shooting right to left around the room, shooting very low."
Mr Taylor looked for something "to throw at the chap" but all he could see were large weights too heavy to throw. "It was chaotic," he said. "I just decided to run at him, not directly towards him because there were machines in the way that I had to run around to get to him. As I was running the first shot went off that was aimed towards me. I felt it whizz above my head and I put my arm across my head and kept running."
"I was within touching distance, maybe a foot away," he said, when he "dived" towards the gunman but was struck by a bullet, spun 180 degrees and landed on his back on the floor. He said: "I tried to get up again but couldn't get up with the pain and then the shooting stopped and it went quiet and then everyone started screaming and shouting."
Mr Taylor became emotional when he described paramedics putting him in a chair and lifting him towards the stairs. After a brief pause to drink water, he said: "That was the first time I saw Bobby."
Mr Taylor described the gunman as being about five feet eight inches tall, wearing a black jacket and high viz vest. He recalled hearing seven or eight shots and thought the shooting went on for 15 to 20 seconds.
He agreed with defence counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor SC that when he gave his first statement to gardai he had been given morphine and later went back to correct certain things. He said he also asked gardai to return his runners, which had been removed by paramedics, and a sum of money that was in his tracksuit bottoms. He said he thought it was €200 but agreed that in a previous statement he said it was between €300 and €400.
He said he was told by gardai that they didn't have his money or runners and had never taken them.
When Ms Lawlor asked if he was certain his tracksuit, t-shirt and runners were taken, he said: "They were put in a bag beside me. I remember asking why they were cutting my tracksuit bottoms off me when I was shot in the arm." He said they were put in a blue bag, "like a garda evidence bag."
Mr Taylor said he complained to GSOC about "a number of different matters" including the money and clothing. He said the response he received was that those items were not taken from him, "and that's where it was left."
Mr Taylor told Mr Murray, for the prosecution, that GSOC dismissed his complaint.
Karen Brown told Mr Murray that she is Mr Taylor's partner. She was on her way to the class that morning in her Range Rover but was late. "Pete is adamant about time-keeping," she said, so she decided to cut the corner as she turned onto the seafront. As she came around the corner she "almost hit a grey van" which she thought was a Volkswagen Caddy or a Ford Transit, the type used by a builder.
She got a fright, she said, but didn't pay the van any more attention. As she approached the gym she saw someone hanging out the women's toilet window and thought her classmates were playing a joke because she was late. She realised something was wrong when she heard someone shouting, "call an ambulance", and, "get the reg, get the reg." One of the class members was screaming, "Bobby, Bobby."
Ms Brown became emotional as she described going into the gym where she was hit by a strong smell of sulphur. She saw Mr Messett inside the door. "He was gone," she said, "you could tell he was dead. And I saw Pete's feet and I presumed he was dying because there was no colour in his face and they were applying pressure to his chest."
Eddie McCann was helping Mr Taylor and told Ms Brown to elevate his legs. She phoned an ambulance and tried to reassure her partner, telling him that "everything is OK." She told him Bobby was "OK" too, because she didn't want him to panic.
She said: "To me he [Pete] looked like he was dying. He wasn't able to speak. He wasn't in a good way, in shock and a lot of pain, he was just silent. Eddie had been putting pressure on his chest and there was bleeding. Any chest injury is presumed to be high risk."
A doctor arrived, she said, and then the gardai. She added: "I was surprised no armed unit came considering there had been a shooting." She said it took 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
Ms Brown told Ms Lawlor, for the defence, that gardai arrived after about ten minutes "and the garda station was a one-minute drive away."
She said she remembered seeing a blonde male garda, one of two gardai who were first to attend the scene, holding a blue plastic bag containing Mr Taylor's tracksuit bottoms and Adidas runners. She said she saw the same garda at St Vincent's Hospital later that day with the bag still in his hand containing Mr Taylor's tracksuit bottoms and runners.
The trial continues in front of Mr Justice Michael White and a jury of three men and nine women.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.