’He had bullet holes in his leg’: People spilled out of boxing club after shooting

The body of Bobby Messett is removed from Bray Boxing Club, where three people were shot yesterday morning. Picture: PA

Anthony Connor was out walking his dog just before 7am along a quiet Bray Harbour when a man came out of the boxing club and lay on the ground with bullet holes in his leg.

Mr Connor had just parked his car behind the Bray Boxing Club when people spilled out from the building in front of him.

“I was just walking my dog and the guy stumbles out of the gym,” he said. “He was lying on the ground with two bullet holes in his leg, his right leg [pointing to the lower part of his leg]. I could see them distinctly.

Gardaí at the scene of a shooting incident at Bray Boxing Club in The Harbour, Bray, Co. Wicklow. Photograph: RollingNews.ie.

“A girl came out crying, she was being hugged by some other guy. I spoke to an Eastern European guy who came out and said: ‘Can I have a cigarette?’ I said: ‘Yeah, no problem. It’s in my car.’ ”

As they walked over to the car, he asked the man what had happened: “He said: ‘I was two metres away from the guy who shot them. I saw the guy come in and bang, bang, bang.”

He said the witness couldn’t really describe the gunman.

Mr Connor said the squad cars came and the Garda helicopter was up, and that he was still shaken by the whole thing.

I have been here for the last few hours, but I am shook up.

Local man Bobby Messett, aged 50 and a father of three, was shot dead. The second injured man, from nearby Greystones, was named as Ian Britton. Boxing coach Pete Taylor, father of Olympic gold medalist Katie Taylor, was shot in the torso, but survived.

Mr Connor said he lived on Cuala Road in Bray, the same street as Mr Taylor. The 57-year-old coach is a household name in the area and in sport countrywide, particularly after the success of his daughter in the London 2012 Olympics.

The club received State funding totalling €300,000 after that event and a new building was erected.

While owned by Bray District Council, the club is synonymous with Mr Taylor, who set it up in 1995. Olympian Adam Nolan, a local garda in Bray, also trains there.

Katie Taylor was coached by her dad at the club but, more recently, is under the management of Brian Peters. She turned professional after the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Mr Taylor’s white 161 Mustang was parked right outside the entrance to the club.

The small harbour, peppered with local boats, is also home to Bray Sailing Club as well as three fishing clubs.

Sailing club member Tom Bailey said he got a text from a fellow member at 7.15am telling him three people had been shot at the gym.

“They have training there, but it would be quiet at that time,” he said.

There’s always a lot of people at the weekends, but you never expect anything like that.

He referred to two sets of cameras the sailing club operates which captures the area. One above the club looks directly at the boxing club, while a second is closer to the boxing club and captures the entrance into it.

Gardaí were accessing these cameras yesterday.

They should capture the gunman going in and out. They might also show if there was anyone in the Northern-registered van that he was driving.

There were conflicting accounts that the gunman was either wearing a motorbike helmet, a workman’s helmet or maybe a balaclava.

Speaking at a press briefing at the scene yesterday, Superintendent Patrick Ward said the gunman was wearing “some kind of headgear”, but that they were trying to confirm with eyewitnesses if it was a dark helmet of a balaclava.

He said there was around 15-20 people in the gym room at the time to have their regular gym session.

“They were just about to start their session when someone came in, a gunman, he was carrying a firearm, we believe it was a handgun,” said Supt Ward. “He started opening fire and three people received gunshot wounds.”

He urged users of the gym and people out walking in the area or people who saw the silver Volkswagen Caddy (later recovered) to ring Bray Garda Station on 01 6665300 or the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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