Father-of-three Bobby Messett died from a single gunshot wound to the head as he took part in an early morning fitness class at Bray Boxing Club, Dr Marie Cassidy has told a murder trial.
The jury also heard from the expert witness that the absence of secondary projectiles around the bullet's entry hole indicated that there was a distance of a meter or more between the victim and the shooter when the gun was fired.
Retired State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy gave evidence on Friday via video-link from the UK in the Central Criminal Court trial of Gerard Cervi (34), who is charged with murdering Mr Messett and the attempted murder of boxing trainer Peter Taylor and Ian Britton.
Mr Cervi, from the East Wall area of Dublin 3, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Messett (50) at Mr Taylor's Bray Boxing Club, Bray Harbour, Bray, Co Wicklow on June 5th, 2018. He also denies the attempted murder of Mr Taylor and Mr Britton on the same occasion.
Dr Cassidy told prosecuting counsel Paul Murray SC that she conducted a postmortem on Mr Messett, who was fully dressed in gym clothing, at St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown on the afternoon of June 5th.
The expert witness testified that she carried out a CT scan on the body, which was still in the body bag, prior to the physical examination.
In her evidence, Dr Cassidy said Mr Messett had a ballistic type injury to the head caused by a bullet, which was consistent with a large exit wound at the back of the head. There were fractures to the skull and damage to the right side of the face, the entry site of the bullet, she said. There was no evidence of invasive attempts of resuscitation.
She pointed out that there was blood-staining over the left side of Mr Messett's neck and shoulder area. The back of the victim's t-shirt was heavily blood-stained because he had been lying face up and on his back since he was shot some hours earlier, she indicated.
Dr Cassidy said the only significant injury to Mr Messett was a single gunshot entry to the head and the gunshot entry wound was through the left side of the nose.
Describing the direction of the bullet after entry, the witness said it continued through the upper jaw bone, behind the nose and below the left eye, entering the skull cavity, then through the anterior of the front of the skull and the back section of the skull cavity.
"The bullet is travelling from the left nostril area and the exit is at the back, so it is going diagonally through the head," she explained.
In summary, Dr Cassidy said the bullet had gone through the left side of the face and nose and travelled diagonally into the back of the skull cavity, injuring the under surface of the brain.
"The brain was swollen as a reaction to the injury and damaging the right side of the brain. There were small injuries to the brain stem due to the shock wave produced," she added.
As the bullet was travelling at "huge speed", the witness said it had created shock waves inside the skull cavity and tore the blood vessels in the brain stem, which controls one's breathing and heart rate. "This would cause an immediate collapse of the person as it is one of the most important areas of the brain to keep one alive," she added.
Furthermore, Dr Cassidy said there were various areas of haemorrhage in the head and blood had trickled down the back of the victim's throat blocking his airways.
In conclusion, the witness said the postmortem showed that death was due to a single gunshot wound to the head, which had entered through the left side of the nose. The bullet had travelled through the head before exiting the right side of the head at the back. Haemorrhage into the brain stem would have caused instant collapse and rapid death, she remarked.
Dr Cassidy said the deceased's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.
Referring to the distant range, the witness said this was a clean wound and only the primary projectile [the bullet] had struck the deceased's body.
"In this instance the absence of secondary projectiles [such as smoke, soot and unburned powder] around the entry hole indicate that there was a distance of a metre or more between the victim and the shooter when the gun was fired," she explained.
Detective Garda Janette O'Neill, who is attached to the ballistics section of the Gardaí, gave evidence that she arrived at Bray Boxing club at 10.55am on June 5th.
The witness said there was blood on the front step of the stairs leading up the gym and on the inside of the staircase.
She also observed a number of discharged cartridge cases at the top of the stairs as she entered the front door of the gym. Nine discharged cartridge cases in total were found at the scene which was consistent with nine bullets being fired, she said.
On Friday afternoon, the trial then heard from a sea swimmer who said she heard "an explosion, like something was being detonated" moments before a man "in a hurry" ran out of the club and "revved" up his van.
Elizabeth Petcu, who lives on Bray seafront, told prosecuting counsel Paul Murray SC that June 5th was a lovely day so she went for a swim with her two dogs in front of her house at 6.30am that morning.
Ms Petcu described hearing a noise that sounded like an explosion and said "it was like something was being detonated in the harbour". The witness said she then saw a man wearing a yellow hard hat "like construction workers wear" and a yellow high-vis vest running out of Bray Boxing Club.
The witness said she saw the man jump over a barrier outside the entrance to the club and "land awkwardly". She said she thought the man was dark-skinned and wearing a little hat. "I knew I had seen something unusual, but I didn't get the whole number plate as I was in shock," she said.
Describing the yellow number plate of the "silver or white van", Mr Petcu said it had "something like AZ in it", was quite distinctive and there was a window at the back of the vehicle, which had "surprised" her.
Asked about the man's height, the witness said that she got the impression he was not particularly tall, but he was stocky and "thick-set".
The trial also heard evidence on Friday from Anne-Marie Holland, who told prosecution counsel Dara Hayes BL that she usually goes for a walk with her husband at 6.15am each morning, but they had left the house a little bit later on the morning of June 5th.
Ms Holland said they drove to the beach in separate cars at around 6.30am or 6.35am as her husband was going to work afterwards.
Ms Holland said the car park was practically empty and no other cars were parked there except for one which she "had to avoid". As she drove into the carpark, the witness said the car reversed towards her as if it was going to hit her. "I got kind of scared as it was reversing towards me at speed. It was reversing directly at me, which I thought was odd," she added.
Describing the car, Ms Holland said it was a large car with darkened windows at the back. "It looked like a car van, a silver-coloured grey car," Ms Holland said.
"It was ominous as it wasn't one I see every day. It was reversing at such speed that I had to accelerate to park the car," she continued. She said the other car exited the car park and "literally disappeared" as she parked her car. She thought the registration plates were yellow and the car was "lighter rather than dark".
Under cross-examination, the witness agreed with defence counsel Anne-Marie Lawlor SC that she had told gardaí that the other car was dark grey or a silver colour but not a bright silver.
In his opening speech, Mr Murray said a resident in the Cornelscourt area of Cabinteely noticed a silver van in a cul-de-sac after 7am that morning with a yellow registration plate beginning with DFZ, which the prosecution say was the same van seen leaving the boxing club after the shooting.
The court heard that at 1.30pm, gardaí received a report of a silver Volkswagen Caddy with the same registration number parked along Pigeon House Road parallel to a road leading to the East Link toll bridge.
Mr Murray said there would also be a witness to give evidence of seeing a man on a bicycle at the van at around 8.15am, long before it was reported to gardaí. Counsel told the jury it was the prosecution's case that the man with the bicycle and the man in the van were both Gerard Cervi.
The trial continues on Tuesday in front of Mr Justice Michael White and a jury of three men and nine women.