Pete Taylor ran towards gunman 'to protect' fitness class at Bray Boxing Club, court hears

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Pete Taylor Ran Towards Gunman 'To Protect' Fitness Class At Bray Boxing Club, Court Hears Pete Taylor Ran Towards Gunman 'To Protect' Fitness Class At Bray Boxing Club, Court Hears
Eddie McCann, pictured at the Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ) on Parkgate Street in Dublin. Photo: Collins Courts.
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Alison O’Riordan

Boxing trainer Pete Taylor ran towards a gunman who fired into Bray Boxing Club "to protect" members of his fitness class, an eyewitness has told a murder trial jury.

Ian Britton, who was shot in the hip area during the exercise class organised by Mr Taylor, was giving evidence on Friday in the trial of a man accused of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

The court also heard from another eyewitness, who said that the gunman looked like he did not know what he was doing when he fired shots into the boxing club where Bobby Messett was murdered.

Eddie McCann, who was giving evidence for a second day at the Central Criminal Court, described the shooter as slender and not very tall. "Was he a man, was he a young lad; he hadn't filled out yet that's the description I gave [to gardaí]," he said.

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Gerard Cervi (34), from the East Wall area in Dublin 3 has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Messett (50) at Bray Boxing Club, Bray Harbour, Bray, Co Wicklow on June 5th, 2018. He also denies the attempted murder of boxing coach Mr Taylor and Ian Britton on the same occasion.

'Fierce pain'

Ian Britton told prosecuting counsel Paul Murray SC today that he was taking part in the fitness class on June 5th with his two brothers Matt and Craig. When the session was about to start, Mr Britton said he saw a figure at the door in a yellow high-vis jacket and a hard hat. He said the man had a gun in his hand and moved it towards Mr Messett.

He said he grabbed his brother Matt but didn't get "100 per cent down on the ground" as he was stuck behind a bench. He said he then felt "a fierce pain" in his hip area and all down his right side.

Mr Britton said Mr Taylor had "ran" towards the shooter "to protect the people in the gym and then the shots went off". Mr Britton said he was on the ground at the time and was looking back to see what the shooter was doing.

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He said he did not see the gunman leave the gym and had ran into Mr Taylor's office. "I had to step over Bobby and Pete was on the ground, lying flat out," he said.

'Jesus Eddie, you have nine lives'

Mr McCann, who was also taking part in the fitness class, told the jury that he saw Ian Britton slouched over and sitting on a wall outside the gym after he was shot. The witness said he got Ian's brother Craig Britton to elevate Ian's leg and he [Mr McCann] applied pressure on it with a towel.

Mr McCann testified on Thursday that Mr Messett "went up and came down" as he was shot. "I knew right away he was dead and I could see he was sliding down and could see the blood," he recalled.

The witness said today that he informed a doctor who arrived on the scene that he was a firefighter. "I said there was one dead upstairs, one with a chest wound and this guy had got shot in the leg," he recalled.

Mr McCann said he told the doctor that he would look after Ian so he could go into the gym. "I grabbed the bag and put oxygen on Ian," he added.

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One of the paramedics that Mr McCann knew put him into an ambulance as he thought he was hit. "He said 'Jesus Eddie, you have nine lives'. I've worked with him over the years. He remembered me from when the firemen were killed in Wicklow and I was on that," remarked Mr McCann.

'I could smell the cordite from the gun'

The witness said there was blood on his head, that his own heart rate was up and he had got chest pains on the way to St Vincent's Hospital. "I could smell the cordite from the gun and I remember describing the gun," he added.

Referring to the gun which the shooter was pointing in the doorway of the gym, Mr McCann said it was tapered and small and the ridge along the barrel was "fixed in my mind".

When he arrived at the hospital, the witness said a nurse got quite nervous when she examined his head and asked for armed gardaí to come as "they were afraid something might happen".

"Ian came in on a trolley and I held his hand and said 'you alright mate'," he recalled.

Mr McCann said he called the fire brigade and told them he would not be on that day. "Because of what happened I never went back to the fire brigade," he said.

Scanning the room

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The witness said the shooter had been standing in the frame of the door into the gym when he first saw him and it looked "like he was scanning" the room. He said the gunman took one step into the gym, focused on Mr Messett, stopped and leaned back. "I saw the muzzle and the blood," he said.

Mr McCann said he thought the gunman was wearing an RSA high-vis jacket as he remembered a red mark or square on the back of it. "I remember on the yellow hard hat there was a white Battenburg stripe which was kind of unusual," he said.

The witness said he was around six to eight foot away from the shooter and Mr Messett was about six foot away.

Standing up in the witness box and pointing his fingers into the shape of a gun, Mr McCann said the shooter held the gun with both of his hands and had his arms raised. "It was probably seconds but seemed like an eternity. It looked like he didn't know what he was doing and then he focused on Bobby and went like that," he said.

Mr McCann said he was terrified when the shots were fired, that the noise was horrendous and he saw the muzzle "flash". "It was so surreal what happened, automatically I hit the floor. When he shot Bobby there was a pause and then bang, bang, bang, bang, bang," he said.

Three minutes

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He said the shooter was in the gym for between two and three minutes.

Describing the gunman to the jury, Mr McCann said he was a slender man, not very tall and around five foot eight or nine in height. He agreed that he had told gardaí in his statement that he was small, skinny, and seemed very slight. "Was he a man, was he a young lad; he hadn't filled out yet that's the description I gave," he said.

Mr McCann said he could see the man's mouth around the balaclava so he knew he was white Caucasian.

Under cross-examination, defence counsel Cathal McGreal BL put it to Mr McCann that he had called the gunman "a young lad who hadn't filled out yet". "He was slight," replied the witness.

When asked about his impression that the gunman did not know what he was doing, Mr McCann said that was his "personal impression".

Mr McGreal then asked was this impression something that he had formed since the event. "Since it happened, yes, it was like there was a pause. As far as I can remember there was movement and then he stopped and then he pulled the trigger. I've no experience in that but it looked like it to me, 'what am I doing, I better do something," remarked the witness.

Class participants

When asked by the defence counsel if he had spoken to other witnesses about his recollection of that morning, Mr McCann said he had met some of the class participants about six weeks after the incident for a beer and a chat "to see what happened".

The witness said he thought he remembered saying to the group that it was like the gunman "didn't know what he was doing and just stood there".

"I always remember saying to the people there that he didn't know what he was doing, I better do something [sic]," he concluded.

The trial continues this afternoon before Mr Justice Michael White and a jury of three men and nine women.

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In his opening address, Mr Murray said that a "lone gunman" walked into Bray Boxing Club before 7am on June 5th and fired nine shots from a semi-automatic pistol "in quick succession" in "varying directions" in the confined place, leaving one man dead and two other men injured.

Mr Messett was fatally shot in the head during the exercise class and the organiser of the class Mr Taylor and class participant Mr Britton were shot in the bodies and survived.

It is the State's case that Mr Cervi was the gunman and that he intended to commit murder that day.

Mr Murray said in his opening that if a person makes a mistake, or kills the wrong person, it is still murder if there was intent to kill a person.

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